Leaellynasaura ("Leaellyn's Lizard") was a small, meter long dinosaur, distantly related to Dryosaurus and Othnielia, which had supposedly adapted to extreme climates, from Antarctica, Australia and South America in the Middle Cretaceous period (112-89 Million Years Ago). Back then, these three continents were still combined into one mega-continent and were further to the north, away from the South Pole. But this mega-continent was already experiencing very long periods of winter time without sunlight.



Leaellynasaura lived in Antarctica during the Middle Cretaceous period over 106 million years ago.


Leaellynasaura were just two meters long and their most distinctive feature was their large eyes, which helped them find food in the dark winter.


Throughout winter they survived in the warm, sheltered hearts of thick forests. But in spring, they emerged to feed on the fresh plant growth.

These dinosaurs were sociable little animals that lived in small clans, enabling them to make the most of scarce resources. Clans were dominated by one breeding pair and the hierarchy ensured that a Leaellynasauru…was always on lookout duty. It regularly issues reassuring clicks as long as the cost was clear.

When spring took hold for them, there was a feverish activity. When males fought for dominance in mating season, these fights were short, but also vicious. The mated within the springs fist sunrise and then built nests. It was a team effort, with the dominant pair building in the center…and other subordinate animals working around them. Many of these piles of leaves never held eggs, but acted as decoys to help protect the main nest. But no matter how busy these little dinosaurs were, they always have to remain alert to danger.

Their nests also needed to be constantly checked. They removed and added leaves to keep the eggs at a range of 30 degrees centigrade. The nests also had to be protected around the clock. When it came to hatchlings, mother Leaallynasauru removed old egg shells and ate the un-hatched eggs. These dinosaurs have also learned one adaptation to the cold. As a group, the huddled together and drifted into a state of torpor. In this suspended animation their bodies could resist the effects of the cold. But they could not stay like that for more than a couple of days.