Dinosaurs > Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus, meaning “roof lizard” or “covered lizard” in reference to its bony plates, is a genus of armored stegosaurid dinosaur. They lived during the Late Jurassic period, some 155 to 150 million years ago in what is now western North America. In 2006, a specimen of Stegosaurus was announced from Portugal, showing that they were present in Europe as well. Due to its distinctive tail spikes and plates, Stegosaurus is one of the most recognizable dinosaurs. At least three species have been identified in the upper Morrison Formation and are known from the remains of about 80 individuals.

A large, heavily built, herbivorous quadruped, Stegosaurus had a distinctive and unusual posture, with a heavily rounded back, short forelimbs, head held low to the ground and a stiffened tail held high in the air. Its array of plates and spikes has been the subject of much speculation. The spikes were most likely used for defense, while the plates have also been proposed as a defensive mechanism, as well as having display and thermoregulatory functions. Stegosaurus had a relatively low brain-to-body mass ratio. It had a short neck and small head, meaning it most likely ate low-lying bushes and shrubs. It was the largest of all the stegosaurians (bigger than genera such as Kentrosaurus and Huayangosaurus) and, although roughly bus-sized, it nonetheless shared many anatomical features (including the tail spines and plates) with the other stegosaurian genera.

Stegosaurus was the largest stegosaur, possibly weighing up to 5,000 kilograms (5.5 short tons). Soon after its discovery, Marsh considered Stegosaurus to have been bipedal, due to its short forelimbs. He had changed his mind however, by 1891, after considering the heavy build of the animal. Although Stegosaurus is undoubtedly now considered to have been quadrupedal, there has been some discussion over whether it could have reared up on its hind legs, using its tail to form a tripod with its hind limbs and browsing for higher foliage.

Tracks discovered by Matthew Mossbrucker (Morrison Natural History Museum, Colorado) suggest that Stegosaurus lived in multi-age herds. One group of tracks is interpreted as showing four or five baby stegosaurs moving in the same direction, while another has a juvenile stegosaur track with an adult track overprinting it. Stegosaurus may have preferred drier settings than other common Morrison Formation dinosaurs, such as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus.


Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Suborder: Stegosauria
Family: Stegosauridae

Size: 9 m (30 ft) long
4 meters (13 ft) tall

Weight: 5-6 tons

When: Jurassic Period
155 to 150 million years ago

Where: North America

Diet: Herbivore

The quadrupedal Stegosaurus is one of the most easily identifiable dinosaur genera, due to the distinctive double row of kite-shaped plates rising vertically along the rounded back and the two pairs of long spikes extending horizontally near the end of the tail. Although large animals at up to 9 metres (30 ft) in length, the various species of Stegosaurus were dwarfed by their contemporaries, the giant sauropods. Some form of armor appears to have been necessary, as Stegosaurus species coexisted with large predatory theropod dinosaurs, such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.

Despite the animal’s overall size, the braincase of Stegosaurus was small, being no larger than that of a dog. A well-preserved Stegosaurus braincase allowed Othniel Charles Marsh to obtain in the 1880s a cast of the brain cavity or endocast of the animal, which gave an indication of the brain size. The endocast showed that the brain was indeed very small, the smallest proportionally of all dinosaur endocasts then known. The fact that an animal weighing over 4.5 metric tons (5 short tons) could have a brain of no more than 80 grams (2.8 oz) contributed to the popular old idea that all dinosaurs were unintelligent, an idea now largely rejected. Actual brain anatomy in Stegosaurus is poorly known, but the brain itself was however small even for a dinosaur, fitting well with a slow herbivorous lifestyle and limited behavioral complexity.


Source: Wikipedia