06 December 2009
Gallimimus was a carnivorous, two or three metre tall dinosaur that was believed to exist in the late Cretaceous period, roughly seventy million years ago. Their skeletons, which resemble that of the ostrich, hint that the gallimimus had much in common with the lifestyle of the larger birds; certainly it is known to be a fast runner, and possessed a long, thin beak made of a horny, toothless material. Its name, provided in 1972 by its discoverers Halszka Osmólska, Ewa Roniewicz and Rinchen Barsbold, means 'chicken mimic'.
The small head contained a relatively large brain, and thus a rough estimate of its intelligence (taking into account the ratio of brain to body weight) should make it one of the brighter bipedal carnivores. A long neck and tail provided good balance and resulted in the gallimimus attaining a length of between four and six metres. Its two short arms with three clawed fingers add to its bird-like stature, and fossil records indicate its bones were hollow, another indication of its similarity to modern birds.
A variety of similar dinosaurs, such as harpymimus and garudimimus, were also common in various continents, including South-east Africa and North America. The diversity of the group is highest in Mesozoic Mongolia, however, and the first gallimimus specimen was discovered in the Gobi Desert.
Gallimimus was recently thrown into the public eye by the Jurassic Park films, which showed the dinosaur living as part of a herd despite their being no real evidence that gallmimus gathered in herds. That said, there's no firm evidence that they preferred to live alone, either.