Species: Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis (Sah-rah-saw-rus aw-ree-fon-tah-nah-lees)
What it means: Sarah’s lizard
Other species: none
Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation
When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.
My favorite food: Plants! I’m an herbivore.
My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.
A few of my neighbors: I have to watch out for predators like Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator and Coelophysis, but little Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaur) is a much smaller, friendlier neighbor. Frogs, turtles, and a few crocodile cousins stay close to the rivers. A long-tailed pterosaur patrols the skies for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly.
- As you might guess from my long neck, I am related to long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods! But I’m not quite a sauropod yet. See my strong hands? Some paleontologists think I might enjoy a few meaty snacks along with the plants. A habit that I get from some earlier relatives.
- Names of prehistoric critters often describe where an animal was found, or honor a person. In my case, it’s both! Sarahsaurus honors actress and philanthropist Sarah Butler, who helped fund a paleontology exhibit called the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature and Science Center in Austin, TX. Sarah + sauros (Greek for lizard). The rest of my name comes from aurum (Latin for gold) + fontanalis (Latin for “of the spring”) = Gold Spring, Arizona.
Fossil Finds: A few individuals. One of these is a partial skeleton and nearly complete skull that was split down the middle. Another is a beautiful articulated skeleton that is almost complete, and almost all the bones lie where you’d expect them too. It even has many parts of the skull.
Ball, Andrea. “Introducing the Sarahsaurus.” Statesman News Network, Gannet Co. Inc., 21 Sept. 2012, https://www.statesman.com/article/20120921/NEWS/309219169