10 Surprising Facts About The Stegosaurus

Were you aware that the Stegosaurus consumed gastroliths, which are stones that aided in their digestion?

Upon observing a contemporary depiction of the Stegosaurus, their spiky tails and large, sharp plates on their backs may appear intimidating.

However, even a five-year-old would tell you that these dinosaurs were entirely herbivorous and not a threat.

Whether those are the only facts you know about these fascinating creatures or you have some additional knowledge, we have some even more exciting facts about the Stegosaurus to share with you!

Their name can be a little perplexing.

When the first Stegosaurus fossils were discovered, like many other dinosaurs, we were unsure how to piece them together.

Stegosaurus fossils were particularly puzzling due to their plate-like bones with no indications of how or where they were attached.

The first paleontologists on the scene presumed that the plates rested flat on the dinosaur’s back and named the new dinosaur “stegosaur,” which means “roofed lizard.”

Nearly all Stegosaurus fossils have been found in the US.

American geologist Arthur Lakes discovered the first fossilized bones of a Stegosaurus in a quarry in Morrison, Colorado.

Shortly after, they were recognized as a new species by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1877.

Within a brief period, several new subspecies of Stegosaurus were defined as many other fossilized remains were discovered.

Until 2007, all Stegosaurus fossils were unearthed in the US. However, fossils believed to belong to the Stegosaurus family were discovered in Portugal in 2007.

The spiky plates on their backs were not for defense.

Initially, it was believed that Stegosaurus plates fit along their backs like a turtle’s shell, but this theory was quickly refuted.

Scientists then hypothesized that the plates were used for defense, but with so few protecting their backs, this was not very effective.

Another theory suggested that the plates helped regulate the dinosaur’s body temperature, but this would not have been very helpful for thermoregulation.

The most recent theory is that the plates were purely ornamental and aided in attracting mates.

Their tails have a specific name coined by a comic artist.

In 1982, cartoonist Gary Larson, the creator of the renowned comic The Far Side, produced a comic strip in which a group of cavemen is being taught the name of a Stegosaurus’ tail.

The comic describes the tail as a “thagomizer… after the late Thag Simmons”.

Paleontologists found this amusing, and it has been used officially by them ever since!

Stegosaurus brains were the size of walnuts.

Shortly after the Stegosaurus was discovered, a plaster cast of its brain cavity was created, and it was immediately apparent that they were not the most intelligent dinosaurs.

At the time, they had the smallest brains of any known dinosaur, weighing only 2.8 ounces (80 g). This was incredibly small for a 5-ton (4.5 metric ton) dinosaur!

It is unclear how intelligent the Stegosaurus was due to the limited processing power of their brains. They were herbivorous and had to consume large amounts of plant matter to sustain themselves, which meant they could not be too picky about which plants they ate. Some Stegosauruses discovered that they could consume gastroliths, which were stones that helped break down their food further and aid in digestion. This practice was also common among other herbivorous dinosaurs and some modern-day creatures, like chickens.

In the 1800s, scientists believed that the Stegosaurus had brains in their posterior, which has since been disproved. The Stegosaurus is the official Colorado State Fossil, and there are three different species of Stegosauruses that have been discovered in Colorado. The Stegosaurus had special armor on their necks called “gular armor,” which protected them from predators.

A writer in the 1920s proposed the idea that the Stegosaurus could fly or glide using the spikes on its back, but this theory has been dismissed as silly. Despite their small brains, the Stegosaurus remains a fascinating dinosaur with unique characteristics.

FAQ

1. What is a Stegosaurus?

A Stegosaurus is a large, herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Jurassic period, around 155 to 150 million years ago. It is known for its distinctive appearance, with rows of bony plates running down its back and a spiked tail.

2. How big was the Stegosaurus?

The Stegosaurus was about 9 meters long and weighed around 2.7 tonnes. Its brain was the size of a walnut, which is small compared to its body size.

3. What did the bony plates on its back do?

The bony plates on the Stegosaurus’s back were most likely used for display and thermoregulation. They may have helped to regulate the dinosaur’s body temperature by absorbing or releasing heat.

4. Did the Stegosaurus have any natural predators?

The Stegosaurus lived alongside predators such as Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Torvosaurus. However, it is unlikely that these predators would have attacked a full-grown Stegosaurus, as it was too large and well-armored.

5. How did the Stegosaurus defend itself?

The Stegosaurus had a spiked tail that it could use to defend itself against predators. It could swing its tail from side to side, delivering a powerful blow that could injure or kill an attacker.

6. What did the Stegosaurus eat?

The Stegosaurus was a herbivore that fed on low-growing plants such as ferns and cycads. Its teeth were flattened and leaf-shaped, which suggests that it may have been adapted to grinding tough plant material.

7. What happened to the Stegosaurus?

The Stegosaurus went extinct along with the other dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period, around 66 million years ago. The exact cause of their extinction is still a matter of debate among scientists.

8. How do we know so much about the Stegosaurus?

Scientists have learned a great deal about the Stegosaurus from fossils that have been found all over the world. These fossils have allowed them to reconstruct the dinosaur’s appearance, behavior, and evolutionary history.

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