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The Stegosaurus is an ancient beast that had many distinctive characteristic features, which made it stand out from other dinosaurs. Indeed, there are many interesting Stegosaurus facts for your little one. Nonetheless, its most distinct feature has to be its two rows of big bony plates that run along its back and a cluster of lethal spikes at the end of its tail. This unique feature, according to scientists and paleontologists, has many functions.
These bony plates along its back were entrenched in the skin of the animal and not attached to its skeleton as many thought it be. That explains why, in most fossils recovered, the plates are separated from the body.
The large, slow-moving plant-eater, Stegosaurus, would have defended itself from predators like Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus with its powerful spiked tail.
Although smaller than huge sauropods such as Apatosaurus and Diplodocus, Stegosaurus would still have, conveniently, stood over a man and weighed as much as a big car. There are so many interesting facts to know about this creature. We should get started already.
Facts for Kids: What Does Stegosaurus Mean?
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Back in the 19th century, when Stegosaurus was discovered, Paleontologists believed its plate was laid flat on its back. They thought it’s more like tiles on a roof, leading to the name Stegosaurus, which is the Greek word for “Roofed Lizard.”
Over the years, numerous theories have been postulated about the arrangements of the plates, the most convincing of which has the plates alternating in parallel rows, with pointy ends up from this dinosaur’s neck all the way down to its butt. As to why these structures evolved in the first place, that’s still a mystery.
However, even after all the discoveries about the arrangement of the body plates, it still retained the name, Stegosaurus.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: When Was Stegosaurus Alive?
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Stegosaurus lived during the Jurassic period, about 150 to 157 million years ago. Other dinosaurs that roamed that same period were Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, and more.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Where Did Stegosaurus Live?
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Stegosaurus remains have been found in sites in Wyoming, plus much further afield in Portugal.
Currently, about 80 individual Stegosaurus remains have been recovered in the Morrison Formation – a well-known fossil site in Wyoming and Colorado.
This further supports the evidence that the continents of North America and Europe were connected in the Jurassic period.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: How Big Was Stegosaurus?
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Compared with other Jurassic dinosaurs, the likes of Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus was not a very big creature. However, comparing it with the animals that roam the world today, Stegosaurus was a giant.
The largest Stegosaurus grew to a staggering length of 30 ft. (9 meters) and was around 2.75 m (9 ft.) tall. Stegosaurus weighed about 5,000 kg (5 metric tonnes / 5.5 short tons). African Elephants – the largest land animals of today – are only slightly heavier.
Stegosaurus had a small, flat head and a turtle-like beak. It walked on four legs and had hoof-like toes. Its hind legs were much longer than its front legs, giving it a rather odd, ‘head down’ appearance. From that, we could also infer that it wasn’t very fast-moving. Scientists and paleontologists think its top speed may have been around 6 or 7 km/h (3.5 or 4.5 mph).
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Did Stegosaurus Have Any Predators?
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Yes, Stegosaurus was big and heavily armored. However, unlike some herbivorous dinosaurs who could ward off the attack of carnivores, Stegosaurus was often preyed on by carnivorous dinosaurs such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: What Did Stegosaurus Eat?
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Stegosaurus was a herbivore (plant-eater). However, unlike many herbivores with strong jaw muscles and large teeth to grind down tough and fibrous plant material, making it easier to digest, Stegosaurus had a weak beak and no front teeth.
Instead, it had tiny, peg-like teeth on both sides of its mouth and a very rigid jaw that restricted movement. Paleontologists believed Stegosaurus was likely to have stored food in its large cheeks, giving it plenty of time to chew its food before swallowing.
Moreso, like many plant-eating dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic Period, Stegosaurus intentionally swallowed small rocks (known as gastroliths) that helped mash up the tough vegetable matter in its vast stomach.
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This quadrupedal animal would probably, have had to eat hundreds of pounds of ferns and cycads every day to maintain its presumably cold-blooded metabolism.
More so, considering that Stegosaurus had its hind legs longer than its front legs, giving it a head-down shape, it would probably have fed on low-lying plants (not grass, which only appeared in the Cretaceous period!)
However, if it could indeed have raised itself onto its hind legs, as some scientists believed, it would have been able to reach vegetation from higher shrubs trees.
So, if you did happen to find yourself in the Late Jurassic period, you probably wouldn’t have had anything to fear from it. Unless, of course, you attacked first, and it started swinging that spiked tail around! That might not have ended well!
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Stegosaurus Body Plates
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Now to the most interesting feature, and, seemingly, the most controversial, about this creature. Stegosaurus featured two rows of bony plates running down the middle of its back. They started just behind the head and continued almost to the end of the tail.
These plates were made from a thick, bone-like material. The plates were not ingrained in the skeleton; instead, they protruded from the skin. They are more like Osteoderms – bony-like structures, such as armored scales and plates that grow in an animal’s skin. Many animals in the world today have osteoderms. A typical example is the crocodiles. The insides of Stegosaurus’s plates were latticed, with blood vessels running all the way through.
Since the discovery of this creature back in the 19th century, there have been numerous theories about the functions of these plates. Were they mainly for defense, or they had other functions?
Although scientists believed these plates might have warned off predators or allowed members of the same species to recognize each other, new hypotheses show that there might be different functions for these plates.
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One theory is that they helped Stegosaurus regulate its body temperature. The dinosaur could have easily turned so that its plates were either facing towards or away from the sun. This would have helped to either warm-up or cool down the dinosaur.
Another theory is that these plates were mainly for display purposes. Or, if you will, “show-off.” The bigger or more brightly colored plates made them more attractive and ultimately increased their chances in the mating game.
To make that more relatable, consider the Peacock’s tail. The tail has no specific practical function except that the color and brightness indicate the health and strength of the bird, making it more elegant and desirable to females.
Research is still ongoing, and who knows, there might be other functions these body plates had.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Spiked Tail
Stegosaurus had a clump of dangerous spikes at the end of its tail. Many Stegosaurus fossil remains show damage to the ends of these spikes. This suggests that the spikes may have been injured in a fight; More like a defensive weapon against predators.
These sharp spikes of Stegosaurus are called “Thagomizer.” It was coined by ”Far Side” creator Gary Larson in 1982, and this has been used by paleontologists ever since.
Interestingly, many Allosaurus, a large carnivorous dinosaur that preyed on Stegosaurus, remains have been found with spike-type wounds in their bones. That further confirms the theory.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Stegosaurus Tiny Brain
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Except for a few, many dinosaurs are thought not to have been particularly intelligent, Stegosaurus included. This ancient creature had a small, narrow head, which only had little space for a brain. In fact, a prevalent Stegosaurus point is that its brain was the size of a walnut. Yes! It was that small! Well, maybe not that small! As recent research has shown that it was nearer to the size and shape of a hotdog. However, for the Stegosaurus’s large extent, this is still very small!
More so, scientists and paleontologists had a hard time wrapping their minds around the small-sized brain of Stegosaurus. As a result, it was earlier proposed that this not-so-bright herbivore might have had another brain behind its legs, but contemporaries quickly rejected this “brain in the butt” theory when the fossil evidence proved insufficient.
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Stegosaurus Behaviors
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Everything we know about dinosaurs comes from fossil evidence that is millions of years old. Piecing together information from this fossil evidence is always tricky and very demanding.
However, scientists and paleontologists have done the bulk of the work, and we have enough information about these creatures of old, especially our dinosaur of interest; Stegosaurus.
There have been multiple cases of Stegosaurus tracks being found together. This implies that Stegosaurus was a social animal and may have moved in herds. A Stegosaurus group containing adults and juvenile specimens was found. This suggests that Stegosaurus lived in family units.
Stegosaurus is believed to have had a lifespan of 75 and 100 years
Stegosaurus Facts for Kids: Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurs
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Stegosaurus was a member of the Thyreophora, commonly dubbed the ‘armored dinosaur’ group of dinosaurs. Another member of the group is Ankylosaurs.
The stegosaurs of the late Jurassic period were cousins of the ankylosaurs (armored dinosaurs), which prospered tens of millions of years later, during the middle to the late Cretaceous period. Ankylosaurus was a low-slung, four-footed plant-eater—and, given its armor, even less delicious in the eyes of ravenous raptors and tyrannosaurs.
More so, it has been theorized that Stegosaurus is more of a ‘genus’ than a species. A genus is a ‘type’ of the animal. It can include one or more very similar species.
Over the years, there has been a sort of debate among scientists whether there were several different species of Stegosaurus or just one species that varied in size and appearance.
While the debate is still, the three main recognized species of Stegosaurus are:
Stegosaurus ungulatus, “hoofed roof lizard.”
Stegosaurus stenops, “narrow-faced roof lizard.”
Stegosaurus sulcatus, “furrowed roof lizard.”
All of which were identified by American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh in the late 19th century. As we said earlier, research is still ongoing; as more members of the group are discovered, the list will be updated.
As you can see, Stegosaurus, the dinosaur with bony plates, was a creature with many unique features. Features that cannot be exhaustively discussed in this article.
Below are important facts you should know;
Top 15 Simple Stegosaurus Facts for Kids
- Stegosaurus means “roofed lizard.”
- Stegosaurus was abundant in the Jurassic period, 150.8 to 155.7 million years ago.
- Stegosaurus grew to around 30 ft. (9 meters) in length.
- It weighed almost as much as an African Elephant – the largest modern land animal.
- Stegosaurus had two rows of bony plates along its back, which may have been for temperature control or display.
- The Stegosaurus had between 17 and 22 protective plates on its back.
- Spikes on the end of the tail were used to fend off predators such as Allosaurs.
- Paleontologists call the Stegosaurus’s spiked tail a Thagomizer, based on a 1982 Far Side cartoon.
- With the brain the size of a hotdog, Stegosaurus was not believed to be very intelligent.
- It was a herbivore, feeding on low-lying shrubs and bushes.
- Fossil evidence suggests that Stegosaurus probably lived in herds.
- Stegosaurus remains have been found in both North America and Europe
- The Stegosaurus wasn’t an easy meal for predators. The plates on its back and the spiked tail of a Stegosaurus were an excellent way to defend it against predators.
- The Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Iguanodon were the inspiration used to create Godzilla.
- The Stegosaurus is the state dinosaur of Colorado.
That’s where we draw the line on interesting Stegosaurus facts. And you’d agree that Stegosaurus is one of the most famous and incredible dinosaurs and has inspired many films. We do hope that you now have a better knowledge about this creature and that you can easily find facts from fiction about this animal.
More importantly, as dinosaur lovers, you can have dinosaur puppets of your kids’ favorite dinosaurs as gifts for their birthday parties. Ranging from the Stegosaurus, down to all other dinosaurs. Do well to check them out.