The Ankylosaurus belonged to a group of diverse, heavily-armored dinosaurs, the members of which once populated every continent of the world, except Africa, in the late Cretaceous period. Contemporary to the horned Triceratops, the duckbilled Edmontosaurus, and the theropod Tyrannosaurus, these plant-eating creatures were among the last dinosaurs that existed before the mysterious event of the ‘great extinction’ at the end of the Cretaceous, terminating the entire Jurassic world.
|Geological Period||Cretaceous Period (68-66 million years ago)|
|Size||6 and 8 meters (19.7 and 26.2 feet) in length (head to tail tip), while the breadth was around 1.83 meters (6 feet)|
|Height||Around 5.6 feet|
|Weight||5 to 6.5 tons (4.5 to 5.9 kg)|
|Average Lifespan||70-80 years (estimated)|
|Location/Distribution & Habitat||Every continent except Africa, in the coastal plain between the shores of the Western Interior Seaway|
|Climate/Environment||Temperate to subtropical forests having abundant water supply and diverse plant life|
|Birth Type (Reproduction)||Eggs|
History and Discovery
Although the Ankylosaurus is a much-known dinosaur, only a few fossils of the postcranial skeletons, including three skulls, have been excavated. However, these archaeological remains were enough to deliver reliable data about the physical features of the entire creature.
Back in 1906, paleontologist Peter Kaisen, who led an expedition conducted by the American Museum of Natural History, discovered the first specimen of the Ankylosaurus in the Hell Creek Formation located in Montana, northwestern US. Later, in 1908, Barnum Brown, the renowned dinosaur researcher, and hunter, officially named and described the species.
Physical Description: What does it Look Like
As a defensive creature, scientists opine that the Ankylosaurus was one of the most perfect designs of nature. Interestingly, with their bizarre proportions and armored features, the body of this prehistoric giant was extremely wide, as compared to many other contemporary species. However, much of the skeletal system (structure) of the Ankylosaurus, including parts of the pelvis, tail, and feet, is still not known.
Their armor-like features of protection, along with four bony projections, showing up from their dorsal region, are comparable to modern-day crocodiles, armadillos, turtles, and some lizards.
The head was somewhat flattened with the front jaws being modified to a beak, and the remaining part of the jaws is made of rows of leaf-shaped teeth. The body skin was embedded with big plate-like structures called the ‘osteoderms’, while the neck skin was studded with half rings of bone and the tail ending in a huge club of bone. Each of these structures tended to fuse or merge together, thus making the body extremely stiff, guarding it like a continued armor.
Because these dinosaurs were relatively shorter, with short legs and a broad body, they were not able to reach the high branches of the tall prehistoric vegetation during their era and had to depend upon the plants dwelling close to the ground.
Also, because of their heftily-built structure and the massive tail club, it is also apparent that they were slow-moving creatures (speed was estimated using the distance between their footprints while walking) that were almost unable to escape from the predators. When challenged, they would inflict severe injuries into the legs of the predators by swinging the massive tail sideways leaving them unable to move, and thus, stop them from chasing.
Diet: What do the Ankylosaurus Dinosaur Eat
The creature, despite its awe-inspiring, massive structure, was an herbivore (would not eat meat), feasting upon a variety of plant matters. This is quite evident from the anatomy of its mouth and the dental structure.
By the process of evolution, their sharp jaws turned beaklike and would help them cut the vegetable and plant matters at the ground-level before they would consume them.
Much like the stegosaurus, the osteoderms covering their skin was bite-proof to even the strongest of carnivores, providing their owner enough protection of the internal organs against its enemies.
- The meaning of the word ‘Ankylosaurus’ (also its genus name) means “fused lizard” (which is derived from the animal’s fused osteoderms), while ‘magniventris’ (its specific name) means “great belly”.
- Its brain was slightly bigger than a walnut.
- As measured by their relative brain to body weight, the intelligence of these creatures was low among the dinosaurs.
- The tongue of this creature was muscular and quite heavy; however, no one, to date, is sure about the reason.
- The tail of the Ankylosaurus was strong enough even to shatter the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex while fighting (which is comparable to the strong tail of the modern-day kangaroo that is able to give severe injuries to an attacking lion).
- The structure of the Ankylosaurus had been one of the most confusing and tough subjects for the artists to draw or render.
- The largest specimen of the Ankylosaurus ever found was 20.5 feet (6.25 meters) in length.
- A monster creature called ‘Anguirus’ that first appeared in the 1955 Hollywood flick ‘Godzilla Raids Again’, was loosely based on the Ankylosaurus. The character continued to appear in the next six sequels of the movie, becoming a favorite to the Godzilla movie fans.