Qantassaurus (Greek for "Qantas lizard"); pronounced KWAN-tah-SORE-us


Woodlands of Australia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (115 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 100 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; long legs; bipedal posture; round, blunt head with large eyes

About Qantassaurus

Like its close relative, the equally unpronounceable Leaellynasaura, Qantassaurus lived in Australia during a time (the early Cretaceous period) when that continent was much further south than it is today, meaning this dinosaur thrived in wintry conditions that would have killed most its kind. That explains the relatively slender size of Qantassaurus--there wouldn't have been enough vegetation in its harsh climate to supply a multi-ton herbivore--as well as its relatively large eyes, which it presumably needed to see clearly in the near-Antarctic dusk, and its longer-than-usual legs, with which it could outrun hungry predators. This ornithopod dinosaur was also distinguished by its unusually blunt face; Qantassaurus had slightly fewer teeth than its plant-eating cousins from further north.

By the way, Qantassaurus, named after Australia's Qantas Airlines, isn't the only prehistoric animal to pay homage to a multinational corporation; witness the ancient amphibian Fedexia, which was discovered near a Federal Express depot, as well as Atlascopcosaurus, which honors a manufacturer of mining equipment. (The husband-and-wife team that discovered Qantassaurus, Tim and Patricia Vickers-Rich, are known for bestowing unusual names on their dinosaurs; for example, Leaellynasaura was named after their daughter, and the "bird mimic" dinosaur Timimus after their son.)