Oryctodromeus (meaning "digging runner") was a genus of small parksosaurid dinosaur. Fossils are known from the middle Cretaceous Blackleaf Formation of southwestern Montana and the Wayan Formation of southeastern Idaho, USA, both of the Cenomanian stage, roughly 95 million years ago. A member of the small, presumably fast-running herbivorous family Parksosauridae, Oryctodromeus is the first dinosaur published that shows evidence of burrowing behavior.

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, Cenomanian
Oryctodromeus cubicularis - Museum of the Rockies
Reconstructed skeleton, Museum of the Rockies
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Family: Parksosauridae
Subfamily: Orodrominae
Genus: Oryctodromeus
Varricchio et al., 2007
Type species
Oryctodromeus cubicularis
Varricchio et al., 2007


Restoration of an individual in its burrow

Oryctodromeus was originally described as lacking ossified tendons in the tail. However, specimens from the Wayan Formation demonstrate the presence of a thick tendon lattice in the dorsal, sacral, and caudal columns of some specimens; perhaps indicating more flexibility in ossified tendons than has previously been supposed.[1] Adaptations in the jaws, forelimbs, and pelvis were described in the Blackleaf specimens that could have helped move and manipulate soil.[2]

The authors pointed out that Oryctodromeus had only modest forelimb modifications in comparison to dedicated burrowing animals, like moles, echidnas, and wombats. Instead, it was comparable to, but somewhat more specialized for digging than animals that both run and burrow today, like aardwolves, cavies, hyenas, and rabbits. Because it was a biped, it could have a more modified forelimb without affecting its ability to run.[2]


Orycto metatarsal in situ Wayan
Metatarsal in situ.

Oryctodromeus is based on specimens from the Blackleaf Formation: MOR 1636a, a partial skeleton of an adult individual including: the premaxillae (upper beak); part of the braincase; three neck, six back, seven hip, and twenty-three tail vertebrae; ribs; the shoulder girdle; an arm (minus the hand); both tibiae and an incomplete fibula; and a metatarsal. Two additional individuals, both juveniles about 55 to 65% the size of MOR 1636a, are represented by MOR 1636b.[2] Numerous additional partial skeletons are known from the Wayan Formation.[1]


Wayan Orycto caudal
Caudal vertebrae

Under a cladistic analysis, Oryctodromeus was found to be basal within Euornithopoda and a close relative of the hypsilophodonts Orodromeus and Zephyrosaurus, which are also known from the Cretaceous of Montana. These two animals share adaptations with Oryctodromeus that may have been used for burrowing, such as a broad snout. Additionally, Orodromeus specimens have been found preserved in a similar way, suggesting that they too were in burrows.[2] This would not be the first time that a hypsilophodont has been suggested as a burrower; Robert Bakker has informally claimed since the 1990s that Drinker, from the late Jurassic of Wyoming, lived in burrows,[3] but this has yet to be published.


As a hypsilophodont, Oryctodromeus would have been a small, swift herbivore. This aspect, coupled with where it was discovered, gives it its name: Oryctodromeus cubicularis translates as "digging runner of the lair", in reference to its presumed lifestyle. The adult Oryctodromeus itself measured 2.1 m (6.9 ft) long and would have weighed about 22-32 kilograms (50-70 pounds), and the juveniles would have been about 1.3 m (4.3 ft) long. The presence of juveniles with the adult suggests parental care, and that at least one motivation for burrowing was to rear the juveniles. The size of the juveniles suggests an extended period of parental care.[2]

Burrowing behavior

Oryctodromeus family Wayan
Family outside their burrow

The three Oryctodromeus individuals were found buried within the remains of an underground den or burrow, measuring about 2 meters (6.6 feet) long and 70 centimeters (2.3 feet) wide. The skeletons were densely packed and disarticulated, indicating that the animals died and decayed within the burrow. The burrow is similar to those made by hyenas and puffins today. It was filled with sand, and the resulting sandstone stands out against the surrounding mudstone and claystone.

There are two turns in the preserved burrow section, and smaller secondary sandstone cylinders of various sizes (a few centimeters or inches in cross-section at most) that were probably made by smaller animals sharing the burrow (commensal). The burrow closely fits the probable proportions of the adult dinosaur, another indication that it was the digger.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ a b Krumenacker, L. J., 2010. Chronostratigraphy and paleontology of the mid-Cretaceous Wayan Formation of eastern Idaho, with a description of the first Oryctodromeus specimens from Idaho. BYU MS thesis."
  2. ^ a b c d e Varricchio, David J.; Martin, Anthony J.; Katsura, Yoshihiro (2007). "First trace and body fossil evidence of a burrowing, denning dinosaur" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 274 (1616): 1361–8. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0443. PMC 2176205. PMID 17374596. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
  3. ^ Buchholz, Peter (1998-03-16). "Drinker and burrowing". Retrieved 2007-03-22.
  4. ^ Hecht, Jeff; Jeff Hecht (2007-03-21). "Dinosaur digger found in its own burrow". News Service. New Scientist.com. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  5. ^ Owen, James; James Owen (2007-03-21). "Digging Dinosaur Discovered Inside Fossil Den". National Geographic News. National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  6. ^ "Asteroid may have forced dinosaur to dig". Science & Nature. The Australian: Keeping the Nation Informed. 2007-03-22. Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-03-23.

External links


Albertadromeus is an extinct genus of orodromine parksosaurid dinosaur known from the upper part of the Late Cretaceous Oldman Formation (middle Campanian stage) of Alberta, Canada. It contains a single species, Albertadromeus syntarsus.


Averostra, or "bird snouts", is a clade that includes most theropod dinosaurs that have a promaxillary fenestra (fenestra promaxillaris), an extra opening in the front outer side of the maxilla, the bone that makes up the upper jaw. Two groups of averostrans, the Ceratosauria and the Orionides, survived into the Cretaceous period. When the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event occurred, ceratosaurians and two groups of orionideans within the clade Coelurosauria, the Tyrannosauroidea and Maniraptoriformes, were still extant. Only one subgroup of maniraptoriformes, Aves, survived the extinction event and persisted to the present day.


Avetheropoda, or "bird theropods", is a clade that includes carnosaurians and coelurosaurs to the exclusion of other dinosaurs.


Cerapoda ("ceratopsians and ornithopods") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia.

Dinosaur behavior

Dinosaur behavior is difficult for paleontologists to study since much of paleontology is dependent solely on the physical remains of ancient life. However, trace fossils and paleopathology can give insight into dinosaur behavior. Interpretations of dinosaur behavior are generally based on the pose of body fossils and their habitat, computer simulations of their biomechanics, and comparisons with modern animals in similar ecological niches. As such, the current understanding of dinosaur behavior relies on speculation, and will likely remain controversial for the foreseeable future. However, there is general agreement that some behaviors which are common in crocodiles and birds, dinosaurs' closest living relatives, were also common among dinosaurs. Gregarious behavior was common in many dinosaur species. Dinosaurs may have congregated in herds for defense, for migratory purposes, or to provide protection for their young. There is evidence that many types of dinosaurs, including various theropods, sauropods, ankylosaurians, ornithopods, and ceratopsians, formed aggregations of immature individuals. Nests and eggs have been found for most major groups of dinosaurs, and it appears likely that dinosaurs communicated with their young, in a manner similar to modern birds and crocodiles. The crests and frills of some dinosaurs, like the marginocephalians, theropods and lambeosaurines, may have been too fragile to be used for active defense, and so they were likely used for sexual or aggressive displays, though little is known about dinosaur mating and territorialism. Most dinosaurs seem to have relied on land-based locomotion. A good understanding of how dinosaurs moved on the ground is key to models of dinosaur behavior; the science of biomechanics, in particular, has provided significant insight in this area. For example, studies of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on dinosaurs' skeletal structure have investigated how fast dinosaurs could run, whether diplodocids could create sonic booms via whip-like tail snapping, and whether sauropods could float.


Dinosauriformes is a clade of archosaurian reptiles that include the dinosaurs and their most immediate relatives. All dinosauriformes are distinguished by several features, such as shortened forelimbs and a partially to fully perforated acetabulum, the hole in the hip socket traditionally used to define dinosaurs. The oldest known member is Asilisaurus, dating to about 245 million years ago in the Anisian age of the middle Triassic period.


Jeholosaurids were herbivorous neornithischian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period (Aptian - Santonian, with a possible Campanian record) of Asia. The family was first proposed by Han et al. in 2012. The jeholosaurids were defined as those ornithischians more closely related to Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis than to Hypsilophodon foxii, Iguanodon bernissartensis, Protoceratops andrewsi, Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, or Thescelosaurus neglectus. The Jeholosauridae includes the type genus Jeholosaurus and Yueosaurus.


Jingshanosaurus (meaning "Jingshan lizard") is a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the early Jurassic period.


Koreanosaurus (meaning "Korean lizard") is a genus of ornithopod dinosaur. One species has been described, Koreanosaurus boseongensis.


Neornithischia ("new ornithischians") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia. They are the sister group of the Thyreophora within the clade Genasauria. Neornithischians are united by having a thicker layer of asymmetrical enamel on the inside of their lower teeth. The teeth wore unevenly with chewing and developed sharp ridges that allowed neornithischians to break down tougher plant food than other dinosaurs. Neornithischians include a variety of basal forms historically known as "hypsilophodonts", including the Parksosauridae; in addition, there are derived forms classified in the groups Marginocephalia and Ornithopoda. The former includes clades Pachycephalosauria and Ceratopsia, while the latter typically includes Hypsilophodon and the more derived Iguanodontia.


Neotheropoda (meaning "new theropods") is a clade that includes coelophysoids and more advanced theropod dinosaurs, and the only group of theropods who survived the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Yet all of the neotheropods became extinct during the early Jurassic period except for Averostra.


Orionides is a clade of tetanuran theropod dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic to the Present. The clade includes most theropod dinosaurs, including birds.


Orodromeus (meaning "Mountain Runner") is a genus of herbivorous parksosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of North America.


Orodrominae is a subfamily of parksosaurid dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of North America and Asia.


Parksosauridae is a clade or family of small ornithischians which have previously been generally allied to hypsilophodontids. Parksosauridae is often considered a synonym of Thescelosauridae, but the two groups cannot be synonyms because Parksosauridae is defined as a stem, while Thescelosauridae is defined as a node.


Riojasauridae is a family of sauropod-like dinosaurs from the Upper Triassic. It is known primarily from the genera Riojasaurus and Eucnemesaurus. Sites containing Riojasauridae include the Lower Elliot Formation of Orange Free State, South Africa (where fossils of Eucnemesaurus have been found), and Ischigualasto, in La Rioja Province, Argentina ( where fossils of Riojasaurus have been recovered).


Thescelosaurinae is a subfamily of ornithischian dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous of Asia and the Late Cretaceous of North America.

Wayan Formation

The Wayan Formation is a geological formation in Idaho whose strata date back to the latest Early Cretaceous and the earliest Late Cretaceous. Dinosaur, other reptile, mammal, and micro and macro-floral remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from the formation. The lack of extensive outcrops, limited geographic extent, and extreme structural deformation have limited paleontological explorations of the Wayan.


Zephyrosaurus (meaning "westward wind lizard") is a genus of orodromine ornithischian dinosaur. It is based on a partial skull and postcranial fragments discovered in the Aptian-Albian-age Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation of Carbon County, Montana, USA. New remains are under description, and tracks from Maryland and Virginia, also in the USA, have been attributed to animals similar to Zephyrosarus.


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