Image: Fulgurotherium, silhouette
Fulgurotherium australe. This silhouette of a small ornithopod shows the possible body form of Fulgurotherium
- Anne Musser
- © Anne Musser
What was Fulgurotherium?
Fulgurotherium australe was a small ornithopod dinosaur. Fossils of Fulgurotherium have been found in Lightning Ridge in New South Wales and in coastal Victoria. It was one of the first Australian dinosaurs described scientifically. Small dinosaurs like this one were common in Australia during the Cretaceous Period (100 million years ago), particularly in coastal Victoria.
What did Fulgurotherium look like?
Fulgurotherium was about 1 metre to 1.5 metres long.
Dinosaur burrows, possibly those of small ornithopods, were recently discovered in Victoria. This means that Fulgurotherium and other small ornithopods might have spent winters underground.
Fulgurotherium may have travelled in small herds or flocks.
What was Australia like when Fulgurotherium was alive?
Lightning Ridge during the Early Cretaceous was close to the Antarctic Circle, much further south than today. This meant the area had long summer days and long winter nights. However, the overall climate was much milder then than it is today.
The Lightning Ridge area was covered by forests during the Cretaceous. It was close to the Eromanga Sea, an inland sea which covered vast areas of central Australia. Conifers and ginkgoes were the main forest trees. The forest understorey was made up of ferns and cycads. Reeds and horsetails grew along waterways.
Other animals in Lightning Ridge at the time included molluscs (snails and slugs), freshwater crustaceans, freshwater fish (bony fish and lungfish), turtles, crocodiles, other dinosaurs (theropods, sauropods and ornithischians), flying reptiles (pterosaurs), marine reptiles (plesiosaurs), mammals and possibly birds.
Coastal Victoria during the Early Cretaceous lay south of the Antarctic Circle. It would have had even longer summer days and winter nights than Lightning Ridge. The climate was quite cold, with winter ice and frozen ground.
Evergreen trees (araucarian conifers and podocarps) and deciduous ginkgoes would have been important forest trees. The understorey would have included early flowering plants, ferns and mosses. Horsetails and reeds would have lined the streams.
In Victoria, Fulgurotherium shared its habitat with other dinosaurs, fish (including lungfish), ancient amphibians, pterosaurs, crocodile-like reptiles and early Australian mammals.
What did Fulgurotherium eat?
Fulgurotherium, like most ornithopods, was a plant-eater. Its diet included edible plants such as ferns, horsetails and other low-growing plants.