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265

Effigia okeeffeae

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
265

Effigia okeeffeae

OLogy Series
extinct animal

Effigia looks just like a dinosaur. It particularly looks a lot like bird-like dinosaurs called ornithomimids, or ostrich dinosaurs. Like the ornithomimids, Effigia had large eyes, a beak, a long tail, and no teeth--and walked on two feet. But
this creature lived about 80 million years before ornithomimids appeared on Earth. In fact, it isn’t even a dinosaur at all. It's an ancient relative of
the crocodiles.

Scientist Sterling Nesbitt discovered Effigia in 2004 while examining Coelophysis skeletons from the 1940s. A clue that set it apart was its:

ankle bones

beak

claws

Are you right?

Correct!

Its two two-inch long ankle bones were the big clue that Effigia was a relative of crocodiles, not dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have two ankle bones that are attached to the lower leg. Crocodiles and their relatives have one ankle bone that is attached to the lower leg and the other attached to the foot.

Effigia was different from its modern-day relatives like alligators and crocodiles in that it:

was bipedal (walked on two feet)

had tiny hands

both of the above

Are you right?

Correct!

Another distinct difference is that Effigia had no teeth!

Sterling Nesbitt, Paleontologist

Effigia looks like a
dinosaur, but it evolved before dinosaurs. So dinosaurs are actually Effigia mimics, even though they aren’t related.

Effigia was the only crocodilian relative that lived during this time in North America.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Relatives of Effigia were abundant in the Triassic Period of North America. Close relatives have also been found in South America, Africa, and China.

Scientists believe that Effigia, like crocodiles, was a carnivore.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Scientists don’t know if Effigia was a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore because it had a beak much like that of a bird or turtle. Modern animals with beaks can eat about anything!

Effigia okeeffeae ("ghost")
Locality found: Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Age: Late Triassic, 230-200 mya
Size: 12-15 feet long Diet: unknown
Characteristics: Looks like a dinosaur, with long neck, a long tail, and large eyes.
Cool fact: "Effigia" (“ghost”) refers to where it was found and how long it was hidden. "Okeeffeae" honors artist Georgia O’Keeffe who painted the area around Ghost Ranch.

Image credits: Sean Murtha; Sterling Nesbitt: courtesy of AMNH.