Minmi

Name: Minmi ‭(‬After Minmi crossing,‭ ‬Australia‭)‬.
Phonetic: Min-me.
Named By: Ralph Molnar‭ ‬-‭ ‬1980.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Dinosauria,‭ ‬Ornithischia,‭ ‬Thyreophoroidea,‭ ‬Ankylosauria.
Species: M.‭ ‬paravertebra‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: 2‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Australia,‭ ‬Minmi crossing.
Time period: Aptian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Two confirmed individuals,‭ ‬one of which is almost complete.‭ ‬Possible further fragments.

       Well preserved dinosaur remains are rare from Australia,‭ ‬but Minmi is one of the exceptions.‭ ‬This‭ ‬is‭ ‬in part due to the small body size of Minmi which meant that it would have been‭ ‬more‭ ‬easily buried than a larger animal,‭ ‬something that would have protected the remains from being scattered by scavengers and weather.‭ ‬Fortunately the remains were discovered before they were exposed to the full effects of today‭’‬s Australian climate which can quickly erode and damages valuable fossil specimens when they are exposed.
       The phylogenetic placement of Minmi is a little awkward,‭ ‬but currently it sits within the Ankylosauria as a basal ankylosaur.‭ ‬Minmi is not considered to be a true member of the more advanced ankylosaurids because it lacks some key defining characteristics of this group.‭ ‬Still Minmi was what is termed an armoured dinosaur,‭ ‬and it seems‭ ‬that Minmi had a variety of different armoured osteoderms‭ (‬bony armour plates that are also sometimes referred to as scutes‭) ‬that ran across its back.‭ ‬While the main body seems to have had an assortment of smaller osteoderms,‭ ‬larger ones were present on more vulnerable areas such as the neck,‭ ‬head,‭ ‬shoulders and hips,‭ ‬all areas that predators usually target to make a quick kill.‭ ‬Although still uncertain,‭ ‬the large osteoderms may have formed tall spikes that would have made it even more difficult for a predatory dinosaur to jump onto,‭ ‬or larger ones like Australovenator to bite down on.‭ ‬It’s also considered possible that these larger osteoderms‭ ‬spikes also continued down the length of the tail,‭ ‬but fossil material is still lacking to confirm this.‭ ‬One key area of difference between the armour of Minmi and that of the later ankylosaurids are‭ ‬the horizontally arranged osteoderms that ran parallel to the vertebra rather than the ribs.‭ ‬This is reflected in the specific species name of M.‭ ‬paravertebra.
       Perhaps the most exciting discovery associated with Minmi is that of a cololite,‭ ‬a food pellet that would have‭ ‬been inside the stomach of the living dinosaur that reveals what kind of food it ate.‭ ‬Analysis revealed the presence of seeds,‭ ‬fruit and both fibrous vascular‭ (‬stems,‭ ‬leaves‭) ‬and vesicular‭ (‬spore‭) ‬plant tissue.‭ ‬While the fruit and seeds seem to have been swallowed the more fibrous tissues show signs of being cleanly cut in very small sections.‭ ‬This has helped confirm the theory that armoured dinosaurs‭ ‬like‭ ‬Minmi relied upon processing their food in their mouths rather than using gastroliths‭ (‬swallowed stones‭) ‬to process the food for them.‭ ‬Teeth in these dinosaurs are more adapted to chopping rather mashing,‭ ‬and wear damage in other genera shows that the teeth of the upper and lower jaws came together in a shearing action.‭ ‬By chopping food in the mouth into smaller pieces,‭ ‬a greater surface area is exposed to the digestive acids so that far more efficient digestion can take place.‭ ‬This also hints that in life Minmi,‭ ‬and other similar dinosaurs,‭ ‬actually had cheeks to stop food from falling out of the sides of the mouth as it was being processed.‭
       One more bit of trivia,‭ ‬Minmi once had the shortest dinosaur name,‭ ‬a title it held onto for twenty-four years until the naming of Mei in‭ ‬2004.

Further reading
- An ankylosaur (Ornithischia, Reptilia) from the Lower Cretaceous of southern Queensland - Ralph E. Molnar - 1980.



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