Period: Late Triassic
Order, Suborder, Family: Saurischia, Theroposa, Podokesauridae
Location: North Americaq (United States)
Length: 10 feet (3 meters)
mass of tangled bodies rolled with a flood, sliding over trees
that had fallen into the muddy waters. The rains stopped and
hundreds of carcasses of Coelophysis, the nimble predator
of the Late Triassic, settled into the mud. Some skeletons were
complete, some were torn apart, but all went to the bottom of
the stream. Two hundred million years later, at Ghost Ranch
in northern New Mexico, paleontologists unearthed a treasure
trove of dinosaur skeletons. They were all from one group devastated
by a flood in the Late Triassic. The animals here ranged from
hatchlings to adults more than two meters long.
body of Coelophysis was only a little larger than a turkey.
It had a long slender tail and jaws filled with dozens of knife-edged
teeth. Coelophysis was an unusual predator. It lived
in large herds, something that does not happen in today's world.
Although grazing animals such as wildebeest or caribou live
in herds in our modern world, no predators live in large groups.
Trampled areas around Ghost Ranch suggest that herds of Coelophysis
animal's rear legs were strong and agile. It had feet with three
long toes and one short one, and it was quick to leap away from
larger predators, such as crocodilelike phytosaurs. The front
legs of Coelophysis were small and probably were not
used for walking. They
more likely used to gather food. Its head was large, with a
pointed snout and large eyes. Coelophysis was a master
of ambush. Perhaps a fish-eater, it seems this 100 pound predator
lived along streams, moving through ferns and horsetails, always
on guard for its enemies. It also ate insects, lizardlike reptiles,
and other small dinosaurs.
the skeletons from Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, Coelophysis
has also been found in the Painted Desert of Arizona. The petrified
logs found there, many longer than 100 feet, show us what the
forests looked like when these little dinosaurs ran about.
are among the oldest, if not the oldest, dinosaurs in North
America. Coelophysis is the oldest dinosaur in the world
known from complete skeletons. The name Coelophysis means
A hollow condition,referring to the hollow bones of the legs.
They were built much like birds' bones for minimum weight and
maximum strength. Coelophysis bauri is the only species
known. Coelurus was an early name used for some of the
original bones, which were mistakenly given several names.
the rib cages of two adults from Ghost Ranch are the skeletons
of young Coelophysis. They are too large and well developed
to be unborn babies. This may have been cannibalism - one individual
of a species eating another - and the prey was swallowed whole.
of Coelophysis include Podokesaurus; Halticosaurus
and Procompsognathus from Germany; and Syntarsus
from Zimbabwe and Arizona.