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10 Speedy Facts About Gallimimus

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Why do we love dinosaurs? Obviously, people have their own personal reasons, but Gallimimus may represent the key to understanding how these long-dead animals have become so overwhelmingly popular. Gallimimus—like many fossilized beasts—is a mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the alien. Read on to find out why.

1. It Belongs to a Large Group of Ostrich Copycats.

Called “ornithomimids” by specialists, these long-armed, long-necked, long-legged critters inhabited Asia and North America during the late Cretaceous period (100-65 million years BCE). Gallimimus was among the largest, although some species—as we’ll see—were probably taller than T. rex.

2. Gallimimus Had “Paper-Thin” Jaws.

Thanks to research executed by Norwegian paleontologist Jørn Hurum, we now know that several of the bones in Gallimimus’ beak and lower jaw were only a few millimeters in total thickness.  

3. Its Hands Were Relatively Short.

Ornithomimids are famous for—among other things—their lanky, elongated forelimbs. Yet Gallimimus’ arms, claws, and hands were proportionately short. This possibly means that the animal wasn’t as dexterous as its relatives, some of which likely grabbed tasty tree branches while feeding.

4. Some Ornithomimids Deliberately Swallowed Rocks.

Take 37 seconds out of your busy day and watch this video:

You’ll see a predatory avian busying itself by eating pebbles. What’s going on? Unlike us spoiled mammals, birds can’t chew. Naturally, this makes digestion somewhat difficult. So some feathered foodies help process their meals by swallowing tiny stones, which help mash up chow internally. Fossilized stomach contents indicate that at least a few ornithomimids used this same technique.

5. Gallimimus Posed its Arms Very Differently than We Do.

Can you touch the side of your arm with the side of your pinky finger? Probably not (and if you can, it might be time to seek medical attention). Dinosaurs like Gallimimus had wrists which would have allowed them to ace that little challenge. Like birds, their hands were built for flexing in this awkward direction. However, there’s a trade-off. Go outside and dribble a basketball. Now smirk with the knowledge that Gallimimus could never do this because its wrists were incapable of moving its palms to parallel the ground. Fellow humans, this calls for some gloating!

6. Jurassic Park Animators Got Up and Ran Around Like a Herd of Gallimimus Behind the Scenes.

Over two dozen Gallimimus come racing towards Spielberg’s camera in this thrilling scene from the 1993 mega-blockbuster. To help visualize the sequence, Jurassic Park’s animation team members filmed themselves imitating these frenzied dinos while prancing through a studio parking lot. 

7. Most Ornithomimid Names Aren’t Particularly Imaginative.

Despite looking somewhat emu-like, Gallimimus’ genus name means “chicken mimic.” Its similarly-built cousins Pelicanimimus, Struthiomimus, and Ornithomimus have names which translate to “pelican mimic,” “ostrich mimic,” and “bird mimic,” respectively. 

8. Some Scientists Have Argued that Gallimimus Ate Like A Duck.

Soft tissue isn’t often preserved in fossilized skeletons, but a choice Gallimimus specimen found during the early 2000s gave us a nice look at this dinosaur’s mouth, and comb-like ridges were spotted near its beak. At first, these looked suspiciously similar to the straining mechanisms today’s ducks use while gobbling up small organisms in bodies of water. Gallimimus, it seemed, behaved likewise. However, the structures can also be seen in some herbivorous turtles, creatures which simply bite through foliage instead. 

9. At Least Some Ornithomimids Had Primitive Wings.

The feathered dino club just keeps getting bigger. Ornithomimid skeletons complete with what appear to be enlarged arm feathers have been found in Canada.

10. One of Gallimimus’ (Possible) Relatives Had Terrifyingly-Huge Arms.

Deinocheirus was utterly humongous. A probable ornithomimid, two bodiless arms belonging to this dino were unearthed in Mongolia back in the 1960s. But here’s the scary part: Each one was over 8 feet long! Dinosaur buffs would have to hold out until 2013 before any reasonably-complete skeletons turned up. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait: We now know that the mysterious Deinocheirus had a sail on its back and could reach over 16 feet in height. Universal Pictures seriously needs to consider putting three or four in their upcoming Jurassic Park sequel… 

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Imagine a world in which eagle-sized dragonflies buzzed through the air and millipedes as long as kayaks scuttled across Earth. "Ick"-factor aside for bug haters, these creatures aren't the product of a Michael Crichton fever dream. In fact, they actually existed around 300 million years ago, as MinuteEarth host Kate Yoshida explains.

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But that's just one of the clever adaptations that allowed some creatures to grow enormous. Learn more about these adaptations—including the ingenious evolutionary development that helped the biggest dinosaurs to haul their cumbersome bodies around, and the pair of features that boosted blue whales to triple their size, becoming the largest animals ever on Earth—by watching MinuteEarth's video below.

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Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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One of the first-known works of dinosaur art was The country of the Iguanodon, an 1837 watercolor by John Martin. It depicts the ancient reptiles as giant iguanas, thrashing and fighting near a stone quarry—a far cry from today's sophisticated 3D renderings.

By watching the PBS Eons video below, you can learn how our image of dinosaurs has changed over the centuries, thanks to artworks based on new scientific discoveries and fossil findings. Find out why artists decided to give the prehistoric creatures either feathers or scales, make them either active or sluggish, present them as walking on two or four feet, and to imagine tails that either dragged or lifted, among other features.

Keep in mind, however, that both emerging technologies and new findings are constantly changing the way scientists view dinosaurs. A new species, on average, is named every two weeks—and this research will likely keep artists busy (and constantly revising their work) for years to come.

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