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Tuojiangosaurus

toh - HWANG - oh - SAW - rus

Stegosauria/Stegosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Tuo River lizard"
Length: 23 feet (7 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Jurassic
Location: Szechuan, China

Could Tuojiangosaurus be a dragon? Fossils of two partial skeletons of Tuojiangosaurus have been recovered from Szechuan in China, and area rich in dinosaur fossils. Records dating back to AD 265 tell of local villagers collecting these fossils and selling them as dragon bones for use in traditional medicines. With such a long history of fossil collecting in the area, it seems likely that fossils of Tuojiangosaurus were picked up and sold as parts of a mythical ancient dragon.

Tuojiangosaurus is a stegosaur, a member of the group of armored dinosaurs that includes Stegosaurus, Kentrosaurus, and Wuerhosaurus. Like all stegosaurs, Tuojiangosaurus had two rows of plates and spikes along its back and tail. The 17 pairs of plates were relatively small. The largest were pointed and located over the hips, becoming progressively smaller toward the neck, where they were more rounded in shape. The rows of plates petered out halfway along the tail, which was tipped by four stiletto-like spikes.

Another two stegosaurs-Chialingosaurus and Chungkingosaurus-lived in China alongside Tuojiangosaurus in the late Jurassic. Both of these were smaller than Tuojiangosaurus, and they may have coexisted by dividing up the plants they ate based on the height at which they fed. Alternatively, the smaller stegosaurs may have inhabited more enclosed forests, which would have protected them from predators, while the larger Tuojiangosaurus lived in a more open environment, protected by its size.

all three had different shaped plates, suggesting that they used them for sexual display in attempts to win mates of their own species. Large parts of the skeleton of Tuojiangosaurus have never been found. We do not know what the front legs looked like below the elbow, and parts of the tail are yet to be discovered. But an almost complete skull tells us a lot about this Chinese dinosaur. Like other stegosaurs, Tuojiangosaurus had small teeth at the side of the mouth, a relatively long, low snout, and a tiny brain.

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