Species: Kayentatherium wellesi (Kah-yen-tah-thee-ree-um wells-eye)
What it means: Kayenta beast
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’m surrounded by meat-eating dinosaurs like Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator, and Coelophysis, and plant-eating dinosaurs like Sarahsaurus (an early sauropod) and Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaur). I have to be careful not to get stepped on, or end up as lunch for crocodile cousins the prowl the rivers. In the sky, flying pterosaurs with long tails keep an eye out for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly. While frogs and turtles swim with the fish in the river.
- I look a little like weird beaver (or capybara!) , but I can lay 38 eggs in a single clutch! I’m from a group of animals called cynodonts, and the kits are ready to explore the world as soon as they hatch!
- You’ll see a lot of prehistoric mammals and mammal-ish things with therium at the end of their names. Therium is the ancient Greek word for beast. My name, like many other prehistoric critters, just means Beast from the Kayenta Formation. Kayenta-therium. Kayenta beast. 🙂
- My species name, wellesi, is in honor of the paleontologist Samuel Welles. It’s pretty common to do this with species names.
- Some paleontologists think I liked to be around the water a lot, a little like a modern day muskrat or capybara.
Fossil Finds: Several individuals, including fragmentary teeth and skull, and the head and body of an incomplete (but beautifully preserved) individual that includes 38 tiny babies with jawbones only 1cm long. Paleontologists used a microCT scanner to get a 3D x-ray of the delicate fossils.
Sues, Hans-Dieter & F. A. Jenkins. 2006. The Postcranial Skeleton of Kayentatherium Wellesi from the Lower Jurassic Kayenta Formation of Arizona and the Phylogenetic Significance of Postcranial Features in Tritylodontid Cynodonts in: Carrano, Matthew T., Gaudin, T. J., Blob, R. W. and Wible, J. R., Amniote Paleobiology: Perspectives on the Evolution of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 114-152.