Stegosaurus Facts for Kids

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Stegosaurus Dinosaur Fun Facts

Stegosaurs were four-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs. This group of dinosaurs, which first appeared in the early Jurassic period and gradually faded away in the early Cretaceous era, were as long as 9 meters. They came from various parts of the planet and depending on the region they differed slightly in size and structure. The most striking feature of these dinosaurs was their spiky plates lined along the neck, back, and tail.

‘Roof lizards’, the Stegosaurs, are said to have first appeared in China, with the Tuojiangosaurus, however by the end of the Jurassic period the group included also the Kentrosaurus from East Africa, the Lexovisaurus from Europe and finally the Stegosaurus from North Africa. The Stegosaurus was the largest of the group, which grew to lengths of 30 feet and could be compared to the size of a bus.

Stegosaurus is the largest of group of dinosaurs characterized by the large flat plates and spines that run down their backs. It stood on four feet and had two pairs of sharp spikes at the end of its tail. It could grow to about 20 feet long.

  • Its name means “plated lizard” because of the line of flat plates on its back.
  • Stegosaurus was an herbivore, eating only plants.
  • Scientists have several theories about the purpose of the plates on Stegosaurus’ back. Perhaps they were for defense or to attract a mate. Perhaps the blood in the plates was warmed by the sun and then sent around the Stegosaurus’ body to keep the rest of the beast warm.
Stegosaurus at Brookfield Chicago
The adult animatronic Stegosaurus at Brookfield Chicago Zoo measures 24.09′ long x 4.95′ wide x 11.55′ tall. image via Chicago Parent

About the Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus belongs to the genus of the stegosaurid dinosaur that roamed the earth in the Jurassic Age, in North America and Europe. The Stegosaurus was distinct in features for its spiked tail and plates. The name is Stegosaurus means ‘roof lizard’. It lived some 155 million years ago, amidst the sauropods.

The Stegosaurus was a large plant-eating dinosaur. It had a very distinct and unusual posture. The Stegosaurus had an arched back and short forelimbs. Its head was held low and its stiff tail was poised high in the air. The Stegosaurus flaunted an array of plates and spikes. The spikes were probably used as defense mechanisms, while it is believed that the plates could have been the same, plus doubled up as a heat control feature.

Stegosaurus was nearly the size of a bus and its unique anatomical features were never shared with the other stegosaurians. It was around 30 feet long and stood a good 14 ft tall! It was a quadrupedal, or four-legged dinosaur, and also one of the easiest to identify because of its double row of plates rising vertically and it’s arched back. The hind feet had three toes each and the forefeet had five toes each. The forelimbs were shorter than the hind limbs. The skull was low, probably to feed on low-growing vegetation.

Stegosaurus Basics

The Stegosaurus was considered to be the largest of the stegasaurid family and existed throughout the late Jurassic period. Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘stegos’ meaning roof and ‘Saurus’ meaning lizard, making it the ‘Roof Lizard’.

Stegosaurus Fossils & Origins

The very first fossils and relics of the stegosaurus were excavated in the western parts of North America in the year 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh. In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that more fossils were uncovered outside of North America blowing away the theory that they were exclusive to North America. The 2006 discovery in Portugal was the first of its kind in Europe, indicating that the dinosaur existed much further adrift than had once been thought.

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Since its discovery scientists have disagreed about the exact purpose and arrangement of the plates that existed along the dinosaur’s back. The first theory was that they served as a form of protection, however, this is unlikely as the plates were thin and lined with blood vessels, which were most likely covered with skin as opposed to bone.

The other theory is temperature control, where the plates served as radiators, helping the Stegosaurs keep warm when they turned toward the sun and cool down when they turned away. However Stegosaurs did have a form of protection, they were equipped with a mace-like tail, which was made up of at least two long pairs of sharp, bony spikes, covered in horn.

The Stegosaurs dwelled mostly in open woodland, where they had access to plenty of plants, which would have had to be consumed in huge amounts to maintain their great huge mass. Like the spiky plates on the Stegosaurs, the brain of the dinosaur also created some debate. It is believed that the Stegosaur has two brains, one small brain in the skull and a larger brain located near the hip. Despite the brain in the skull is no larger than a walnut, scientists discovered that this brain was the primary brain that controlled the body, however, the other brain only held nerves and controlled the hind limbs and tail, whilst possibly storing glycogen for powering muscles.

Taxonomy & Variations

Despite there being various classifications for the different stegosaurus dinosaurs most of these were based on only a few minor differences in appearance. The foremost among them include the long-spined roof lizard or the Stegosaurus Longispinus which measured about 20 ft long and owes its name to its four extraordinarily long tail spines.

The armored roof lizard or stegosaurus armatus was not only one of the first stegosauruses remains to be found but measured about 30 ft in length and possessed much smaller plates compared to the rest of its family. The most popular variant of the stegosaurus was the stegosaurus stenops or the narrow-faced roof lizard which was usually shorter than the stegosaurus armatus but had a unique skeletal structure and several huge and expansive body plates.

There are also several other variant species of the stegosaurus that have been discovered from time to time although most of these are still under observation and research, hence not much information is available on them. Some of these include the Stegosaurus Seeleyanus, Stegosaurus Sulcatus, Stegosaurus Affinis, and Stegosaurus Ungulatus.

Physical Features

The stegosaurus was a large-bodied dinosaur with a heavy arching back and a tail that was extremely tough and always held high in an upward position. (that’s correct unlike the cartoons, it didn’t drag along the floor).

The stegosaurus measured around 30 ft in length, it had padded hoofs with the forelimbs having five toes and the hind limbs having just three. The overall structure and body shape indicated that the stegosaurus wasn’t a fast-moving dinosaur and was most likely a slow wanderer.

The head of the stegosaurus was quite small and insignificant compared to the enormous size of its body. The positioning of the head as is evident from the fossilized remains of the skull also proves that they were herbivores consuming simple vegetation that grew on the forest floor.

Like all herbivores, the stegosaurus possessed an extremely efficient dental arrangement that aided in the chewing and grinding of its food. This meant the bone structure of the skull and the jaws accommodated the stegosaurus with cheeks to store food whilst chewing and a set of small triangular, flat teeth which aided in grinding plant matter.

It’s Brain

A very interesting fact that has been noted by scientists is that despite their magnanimous body size, their brains were extremely small. Whilst their body weight stood close to 5 tonnes, its brain weighed a puny 80 grams.

Another interesting theory about the Stegosaurus brain is the concept of a ‘second brain’. Many scientists have said the huge passage near the hip region could easily have housed something like a brain. This theory has been much popularized by scientists who acknowledge that the second brain was essential in organizing and controlling the various functions on the back part of the body.

Plates And Tail Spikes

The most important corporeal feature of the Stegosaurus has to be its plates and the tail spikes which make it stand out among the various dinosaur species. There has been a lot of research regarding the function of these plates and tail spikes and a common consensus has been reached regarding the fact that these spikes and plates were usually used by the stegosaurus for defense purposes.

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The stegosaurus comprised 17 dermal plates shaped like kites having four sides and it should be noted that these were not generated from the bones but rather protruded from the external surface of the skin. These plates are believed to have belonged to a kind of osteoderms which refer to a kind of bony scales on the body and similar bone structures can be observed in most lizards and crocodiles of today. While these plates have been usually considered as being used for defense purposes against marauders who attacked these herbivores, it can be also be noted that they were not enough to guard the stegosaurus completely as the sides remained exposed to attack. However, the plates also have other functions like it helps to regulate the body temperature of the stegosaurus though this fact is also debatable.

The stegosaurus possessed about four tail spikes in addition to the 17 dermal plates and these tail spikes were also referred to as thagomizers. The use of the tail spikes has been highly debated from time to time. While a set of evidence does prove that these spikes were indeed used for defense and as a means for protection, it has also been noted that many of the body plates overlapped the vertebrae of the tail thus greatly constraining its movement.

FAQs About Stegosaurus

Why is Stegosaurus called the dumbest dinosaur?

While Stegosaurus may not have been the smartest dinosaur out there, it definitely wasn’t the dumbest either! In fact, Stegosaurus had their own unique way of surviving during prehistory. Plus, they had some impressive physical abilities too – like being able to swing their dangerous tail spikes in a 360° arc!

What are 3 interesting facts about Stegosaurus?

  1. Stegosaurus was around 8–9 meters long and up to 4 meters high
  2. They had spiny armor along their backs to protect them from predators.
  3. Scientists estimate that Stegosaurus could eat up to 600 kilograms of vegetation each day!

What dinosaur had the smallest brain?

That honor probably belongs to the Plateosaurus. This long-necked herbivore had an incredibly small brain for its size – only about the size of your fingertip!

Did Stegosaurus and T-rex live at the same time?

No – thankfully! T-rex lived about 68 – 66 million years ago, while Stegosaurus was around 155 – 150 million years ago, so these two powerful dinosaurs were separated by many millions of years.

What is a Stegosaurus weakness?

One possible weakness of Stegosaurus was its low brain-to-body ratio. This may have made it difficult for them to respond quickly to potential threats or changes in their environment.

Are Stegosaurus friendly?

Well… it depends on who you ask! While some people might say they were friendly, others would point out that Stegosaurus had many defensive weapons like their tail spikes that could be used against predators. So we can’t really know how friendly they actually were.

What hunted Stegosaurus?

Most likely, the main predator of Stegosaurus was the Allosaurus – a large carnivorous dinosaur with sharp teeth and claws. Other predators may have included other types of predatory dinosaurs.

Did Stegosaurus eat meat?

No – Stegosaurus was an herbivore, which means they ate only plants and never any kind of meat or fish.

What killed the Stegosaurus?

At this time, scientists aren’t sure exactly what caused the extinction of the Stegosaurus. It is possible that a sudden change in climate or drastic environmental changes caused by a meteor could have wiped them out.

Who would win in a fight a Stegosaurus or a T Rex?

This is a tricky question since we can never truly know the answer! However, if we had to make an educated guess, we’d say that the T-Rex would probably win due to its larger size and more powerful bite force.

Who is stronger Triceratops or Stegosaurus?

Both of these dinosaurs were strong but in different ways! Triceratops had a strong single horn on their head that could be used for defense, while Stegosaurus had two rows of long, sharp spikes along their back that could be used as both offense and defense.

What is a Stegosaurus’s favorite food?

Stegosaurs preferred to eat soft vegetation, like ferns, leaves, and grasses.

Why are Stegosauruses so cool?

Stegosaurs are totally awesome because they’re one of the most recognizable dinosaurs from prehistory – plus, they had those cool tail spikes which made them look even cooler!

Did Stegosaurus have good eyesight?

Yes – in fact, scientists believe that Stegosaurus had excellent vision thanks to their large eyes which helped them spot predators from far away.

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