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STL Science Center
18 December 2013
What Large Eyes
The eyes of Leaellynasaura are thought to have been quite enormous, given the size of the orbits of the skull. Proportionately the orbits, and therefore the eyes, are quite a bit larger than most other dinosaurs that have been described to this point in time. The point of large eyes is, probably without needing to be said, to see better in lower light conditions. Polar winters, having longer periods of darkness, would have required animals to possess many specialized adaptations like enlarged eyes in order to successfully survive in the darkness. Without adaptations like these the ornithopods like Leaellynasaura, such as Muttaburrrasaurus, would have had to migrate away from the Antarctic Circle. More sensitive eyes, in addition to unknown adaptations of the softer anatomy that have not been preserved, allowed Leaellynasaura to take advantage of the nearly vacant polar stretch of Australia during the winter season. Predators were mainly represented at this time by smaller forest dwelling theropods like the generically named "Dwarf Allosaur"; which to this point is highly speculative and without solid evidence. It is logical, however, that some predatory dinosaur would have been able to withstand the winter conditions with similar adaptations to Leaellynasaura.