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ed - MONT - oh - SAW - rus

Todd Marshall. Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Edmonton lizard"
Length: 42 feet (13 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Alberta, Canada

The hadrosaurids, or duck-billed dinosaurs, were a family of large ornithopods, which are informally named after the wide, flattened front part of their mouths. This was covered in a horny, toothless beak and looked like the bill of a monstrous duck. Edmontosaurus would have used this beak to bite off plant matter, which it chewed with the many tightly packed teeth - there may have been up to a thousand - that lined both of its jaws. As teeth wore out, they were replaced with new ones.

Edmontosaurus was one of the last hadrosaurids, and also one of the largest. In fact, it was, along with Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, one of the last surviving dinosaurs, living right to the end of the Cretaceous. To help it cope with its huge body weight - a large Edmontosaurus may have weighed up to 5 tons (5.1 t) - it had strong front legs and hooves on its "hands." As well, its spine was supported by huge bony tendons, which criss-crossed all the way down. Edmontosaurus probably spent most of its time on all fours, rising up on its back legs only when it needed to run.

Spectacular finds of Edmontosaurus from Alberta, Canada, have preserved impressions of the skin around parts of the body, including the "hand." It was one of these "mummified" fossils that led to early reconstructions of hadrosaurids as mainly aquatic animals. The skin of Edmontosaurus's hand shows a structure between the fingers that looks like the webbed foot of a duck. It was realized only later that what looked like webbing was really the remains of padding behind the hooves.

Many present-day hoofed animals have similar padding, which helps to bear the animals' weight. Modern reconstructions of Edmontosaurus and other hadrosaurids show them as fully terrestrial animals.

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