Many peo­ple are used to pre­sent­ing dinosaurs as huge crea­tures weigh­ing from a dozen kilo­grams to a ton. How­ev­er, it turns out that very small dinosaurs also lived in the pre­his­toric world, which, unfor­tu­nate­ly, did not receive such fame as diplodocus, tricer­atops or tyran­nosaurs. For exam­ple, Micro­cer­atops (or Micro­cer­a­tus) is a very charm­ing baby with a mem­o­rable appear­ance.

Appearance of microceratops

Micro­cer­atops is one of the small­est dinosaurs in its fam­i­ly (cer­atop­sians). Most dinosaurs are dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from each oth­er even on the pages of ency­clo­pe­dias (besides, some of the names are very long, catchy and dif­fi­cult to pro­nounce). How­ev­er, Micro­cer­atops is not one of those! It can be eas­i­ly dis­tin­guished by its inter­est­ing appear­ance and size.

Micro­cer­atop­sians them­selves were very small. The length of their body ranged from 50 to 70 cm, and the height was about 25–30 cm. As a rule, the weight of this cute crea­ture did not exceed 7 kilo­grams. That is, you can imag­ine the approx­i­mate para­me­ters of a micro­cer­atops by com­par­ing it with a small dog.

Unlike its large rel­a­tives (for exam­ple, Tricer­atops), Micro­cer­atops moved on two legs, not four. Its hind legs were very pow­er­ful and mus­cu­lar, but its front legs were small and short, almost like a tyran­nosaurus rex.

Micro­cer­atop­sians had a long, large tail that allowed them to keep their bal­ance. How­ev­er, the main exter­nal dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of the small­est dinosaur was an unusu­al­ly shaped head. Like all mem­bers of the cer­atop­sian order, Micro­cer­atops had a small hooked beak. Also, his head was “pro­vid­ed” with a small bone col­lar that cov­ered his neck.

History of Microceratops

By his­tor­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic stan­dards, the first skele­ton of Micro­cer­atops was described as recent­ly as 1953. Then the new dwarf dinosaur was giv­en the name “micro­cer­atops”. How­ev­er, half a cen­tu­ry lat­er, it turned out that the micro­cer­atops species was assigned to some rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the insect world. Then the small dinosaur, at the sug­ges­tion of the pale­on­tol­o­gist O. Mateusz, was renamed “micro­cer­a­tus”. How­ev­er, both sci­en­tists and just lovers of pale­on­tol­ogy still call it micro­cer­ap­tos — by anal­o­gy with the order of cer­atops, to which it belongs.

Accord­ing to pale­on­tol­o­gists and as a result of exca­va­tions, it turned out that Micro­cer­atops lived 87–65 mil­lion years BC in the ter­ri­to­ry of mod­ern Mon­go­lia and Chi­na. The first fos­silized remains of this cute dinosaur were found in the Gobi Desert. Dinosaurs lived there in the Cre­ta­ceous peri­od, the lat­est stretch of the Meso­zoic era — this is the time of the appear­ance of stormy flow­er­ing veg­e­ta­tion, pol­li­nat­ing insects, the first snakes and preda­to­ry crus­taceans.

Habits and lifestyle of microceratops

Micro­cer­atops, like his group, was her­biv­o­rous. These dwarf dinosaurs lived in flocks, fed on ferns, bark, palm trees, twigs of the first decid­u­ous trees. In a word, these tiny dinosaurs ate all the veg­e­ta­tion that they could reach. They were active­ly assist­ed by a beak-hook, with which dinosaurs could eas­i­ly bite through very strong seeds, bite off leaves, twigs, and even nee­dles of conif­er­ous plants.

Since the remains of micro­cer­atops were found in the water, this gave sci­en­tists the right to believe that these babies lived near the reser­voirs. They searched for food there and in the same place, in the thick­ets, hid from fero­cious preda­tors.

Micro­cer­atops, like oth­er dinosaurs, was an egg-lay­ing rep­tile. The eggs of this lit­tle dinosaur, like him­self, were easy prey for preda­tors, in par­tic­u­lar, tyran­nosaurs, veloci­rap­tors, ovi­rap­tors. Since the lack of exter­nal pro­tec­tion means and dwarf growth did not allow micro­cer­atops to defend them­selves, they had two options: hide in the under­growth, grass or tree hol­lows, or run away. By the way, these lit­tle dinosaurs ran incred­i­bly fast.

The first remains of the found micro­cer­atops are now stored in the Nation­al Pale­on­to­log­i­cal Muse­um of Mon­go­lia. You can look at what micro­cer­atops looked like in Juras­sic World. The small­est dinosaurs in the movie — they are!

And about why the dinosaurs became extinct, cru.