Discover The Ancient Spiked Lizard That Made Stegosaurus Look Soft

Written by Austin S.
Published: June 26, 2022
© Michael Rosskothen/Shutterstock.com
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The Stegosaurus was known to be a pretty tough dinosaur with protective plates and spikes on its tail. But then, there was the Kentrosaurus that made the Stegosaurus look soft.

The Kentrosaurus is known for its protective armor and massive pointed spikes. It is covered by spikes from half of its body down to its tail. It was a threat to its predators.

The Kentrosaurus is a genus of stegosaurs. It existed about 163-145 million years ago. This was in the late Jurassic period. Its popular species is the Kentrosaurus aethiopicus. Its Fossils were found in Tanzania, East Africa.

In this article, we’ll take a trip in time to understand the size, feeding behavior, and threats to this ancient spiked lizard. Read on!

Description and Size

Kentrosaurus was coined from the Greek words κέντρον (kentron), which meant “Sharp point,” and σαῦρος (saurus), meaning “lizard.” Kentrosaurus meant ” Sharp pointed lizard.” This name was a result of the numerous spines on the creature’s body and tail. Its species name was Kentrosaurus aethiopicus. The “aethiopicus” was added by Henning to show that it originated from Africa.

Kentrosaurus had the typical body of a dinosaur with short forelimbs and longer hindlimbs. However, unlike other tetrapods like the Tyrannosaurus rex, which walks on two hindlimbs, the Kentrosaurus walks on both limbs (quadruped position). It also had a long neck and a muscular spiky tail.

The head was flat and extended with a very small brain. The Kentrosaurus had the dentition of a herbivore, typical to other stegosaurs. 

Unlike the Stegosaurus, with a keratinized array of plates along its back and only four spikes on its tail, the Kentrosaurus seems to be the real threat. The Kentrosaurus had an array of spikes running along its back, sides, and tail.

The Kentrosaurus was smaller compared to the stegosaurus. It had a length of about 4.5m from the tip of its snout to the tip of its tail. The Kentrosaurus is estimated that the Kentrosaurus can probably attain a total length of 5.5m. It can be up to 11.5ft tall while maintaining a quadruped stance.

The Kentrosaurus is a heavy and thick creature. It has an estimated weight of 700kg (1500lbs) for a 4.5m long Kentrosaurus.

Summary:

  • Height– 3.5m
  • Length– 4.5
  • Weight– 1500lbs
  • Skin– Armored with spikes.

Kentrosaurus had extensive osteoderm covering, i.e., bony structures in its skin that were modified into plates that covered the organism. The osteoderm was modified into spikes along its back and tail. 

Kentrosaurus eating
Kentrosaurus was a herbivore with a narrow beak with few cheek teeth beyond its beak. It most likely fed on low-lying plants for the majority of its diet because of its quadrupedal stance.

©Elenarts/Shutterstock.com

Kentrosaurus’ Sense of Smell

Like other stegosaurs, the Kentrosaurus had a small brain relative to its size. However, despite the size, the Kentrosaurus’ brain had extremely advanced olfactory nerves. The animal had a keen sense of smell. It could smell other dinosaurs and potential predators approaching.

This sense of smell is vital for its survival. The Kentrosaurus feeds a lot to maintain its body metabolism. It can detect odors in its environment and locate nearby available food.

Diet- What Did Kentrosaurus Eat

The dentition of the Kentrosaurus confirms that it was a herbivore. It had a varied diet. The Kentrosaurus had a narrow beak with few cheek teeth beyond its beak. It most likely fed on low-lying plants for the majority of its diet because of its quadrupedal stance. Examples of such plants would have included seed ferns, horse tails, and club mosses.

However, since its hindlimbs were longer and stronger than the forelimbs, the animal could momentarily rear up on its hindlimbs. The feature probably made it enjoy taller plants like conifers, cycadeoidea, and gingkos.

The Kentrosaurus most likely had to consume over 300pounds of food daily in order to survive. So the animal likely spent most of its active time feeding or looking for food. 

Habitat- When and Where Kentrosaurus Lived

The Kentrosaurus lived during the late Jurassic Period. This was about 163-145 million years ago.

They lived in the region known as Africa today. They occupied Tanzania, the eastern part of Africa. The warm and lush forest in eastern Africa supplied Kentrosaurus with its basic survival needs. 

There was enough vegetation to sustain the forest-grazing creature. However, many other stegosauruses were found in regions different from the Kentrosaurus’ eastern African home. Their fossils were found in present North America

This doesn’t mean they lived separately from other Stegosaurus. At the time of their existence, the world was mapped differently. The lands were all joined together as a supercontinent. The supercontinent was known as Pangaea.

So, the two species might have lived together before the earth separated into separate named continents.

Threats and Predators

The Kentrosaurus had an intimidating appearance. With spikes all over its body and its large size, it had few predators. The Kentrosaurus could smell other dinosaurs, and its predators approaching it.

The Kentrosaurus cannot run fast. It can only achieve a speed of 5 kilometers per hour. This is slightly faster than an average human’s speed. This was because of the irregular size of its limbs. 

So, the animal cannot outrun most of its predators. Most bipedal dinosaurs can achieve an average speed of 20-25 kilometers per hour. 

The Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, who are bipedal dinosaurs, are the Kentrosaurus’ predators. They can achieve a speed of 30-55 kilometers per hour. So often time, the Kentrosaurus had to defend itself when attacked.

The Kentrosaurus had a pair of long spikes on its shoulders asides from the sides. It used its tail spikes to launch a devastating attack on its predators. The Kentrosaurus can strike with its tail at over 30 miles per hour. A proper attack from the Kentrosaurus on its predator can impale them.

However, the Kentrosaurus doesn’t get lucky every time. Once flipped over, the Allosaurus can deliver a deadly bite on its neck.

Asides from predators, another threat to the dinosaur is nature itself. During the late Jurassic period, the earth was less stable than it is now. So, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, wild forest fires, and earthquakes were frequent.

Kentrosaurus’ Spikes

The spikes of the animal are elongated. It was discovered that one specimen had a core bone length of 731mm. The plates in Stegosaurus were converted to modified spikes in the Kentrosaurus. The spikes have the same constituents as horns, making them fit for defense.

According to fossil records, they had up to 15 pairs of spikes. Unlike the Stegosaurus with four spikes on its tail extremities, the Kentrosaurus’ tail was laced with spikes.

Discoveries and Fossils- When and Where It was Found

Kentrosaurus skeleton
Kentrosaurus skeleton in the Berlin Natural History Museum (Museum für Naturkunde), Germany. The first fossils of Kentrosaurus were found in Africa in 1909.

©Faviel_Raven/Shutterstock.com

The first fossils of Kentrosaurus were discovered in 1909. The fossils were found in the Tendaguru Formation, dated about 152 million years ago. This was during the German expeditions to German East Africa. 

The German Tendaguru Expedition leader, Werner Janesch, classified the fossil as a stegosaur on 24th July 1910. However, it was correctly described in 1915 by Edwin Henning.

After its first discovery in 1909, more Kentrosaurus remains were uncovered in five quarries. Four in Middle Saurian Beds and one in the upper Saurian Bed.

It took four field seasons. During these seasons, the German expedition recovered about 1200 bones of the dinosaur. These bones were reported to belong to fifty individuals. 

However, no complete individual bone was found. But the remains found provided a nearly complete picture of the animal.

Extinction- When Did Kentrosaurus Die

Kentrosaurus went into extinction with other dinosaurs at the end of the cretaceous period. This was about 65 million years ago. 

The mass extinction event was named the cretaceous-Paleogene event. Three-quarters of both plants and animals in the Mesozoic era were wiped out. This included nearly all the dinosaurs and marine invertebrates.

The lineage that survived this mass extinction led to the modern birds and crocodiles.

There are a lot of hypotheses to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, only a few had received serious consideration.

The asteroid theory has received many positive considerations, among others. It stated that the extinction event was caused by an asteroid impact on the earth. The collision ejected vast quantities of rocks that might have killed the dinosaurs. 

Similar Animals to the Kentrosaurus

This was not the only spike-bearing dinosaur that existed in the late Jurassic period. Other spike-bearing dinosaurs include:

  • Stegosaurus: This name meant “Footed lizard.” It is a four-legged dinosaur. It is a herbivore. And it is considered the dumbest dinosaur because of its small brain. It has spikes mainly on its tail and keratinized plates on its body.
  • Ankylosaurus: A genus of armored tetrapods. Its Fossils date to about a 68-66million years ago. It was the last of the non-avian dinosaurs. It was more protected than other armored dinosaurs.

Conclusion

The Kentrosaurus was one of the many armored dinosaurs that used spikes as a means of protection. A lover of vegetation, if it were still in existence, it would pose no threat to humanity.


The Featured Image

Kentrosaurus in ancient landscape.
Kentrosaurus in ancient landscape.
© Michael Rosskothen/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How strong were the Kentrosaurus spikes?

The spikes of the Kentrosaurus were pretty strong. They could impale a medium-sized dinosaur and injure the large ones.

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