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an - KEE - loh - SAW - rus

Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Stiff lizard"
Length: 33 feet (10 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Montana, Wyoming, USA; Alberta, Canada

The last and largest of all the armored dinosaurs, Ankylosaurus was found in some of the very youngest beds that contain dinosaur fossils. With its massive tail club and a suit of armor, a solitary Ankylosaurus would have had nothing to fear from most predators.

Ankylosaurus gives its name to the group to which it belongs (the ankylosaurs) and takes its name from the bony nature of its skeleton. "Ankylosed" means "stiffened with bone"-and this is a fair description. The head was covered with an extra layer of bony plates and spikes, the back and tail were covered by interlocking bony shields, and the vertebrae at the end of the tail were welded together by bone.

The heavy, bony tail club was wielded like a wrecking ball and could do serious damage to any attacking predator. Despite the weight of the tail club and its position at the end of a long, heavy tail, the club was carried clear of the ground. Trackways made by Ankylosaurus and its kin show no signs of a tail dragging behind. Like its close relative Euoplocephalus, Ankylosaurus had a complex systems of loops and twists in its nasal passages. These may have been for warming air, reclaiming water from expiring air, or for enhancing the sense of smell. It is also possible that they were used as a resonating chamber, helping the creature to make loud mating or distress calls.

Ankylosaurus was one of the many dinosaurs found and named by the famous paleontologist Barnum Brown. In 1910, Brown found a particular specimen that is now on display in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. As the story goes, he didn't have time to dig the specimen out himself, so he paid some local ranchers to do the job for him. When he returned a year later, the ranchers had excavated nearly 1,180 cubic yards (900 m3) of solid sandstone, mostly by hand but also using a little dynamite. Despite this stupendous effort, only a partial specimen was recovered.

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2006 Content by Gavin Robinson.