Kentrosaurus Was a Stegosaur with Plates and Spikes along Its Body
So named in Greek as the “spiked lizard,” the Kentrosaurus (pronounced ken-tro-SOAR-us) lives up to its name by featuring some startlingly sharp spikey protrusions as well as some hard, flat plates from its body. This dinosaur was strictly a herbivore that moved around slowly through its Late Jurassic environment in the forest regions of what is now eastern Africa around 150 million years ago. As you may have been able to guess, the Kentrosaurus is closely related to the Stegosaurus, though they both lived in areas that appear by today’s geography to be far apart.
|2.2 short tons (1.99 tonnes)
|15 feet (4.57 meters)
|11.5 feet (3.51meters)
|Approximately 5 mph
What Did Kentrosaurus Look Like?
At first glance, you might be tempted to think that the Kentrosaurus is its close relative the Stegosaurus, but you’ll note there are some very key differences here. Kentrosaurus is also a stegosaur, like its relative, meaning that it features a double row of either spikes or plates on its back and is of medium size (though some stegosaurs can be smaller) and also boasts some dangerous spikes on its tale. If you picture a Stegosaurus, though, you see the famous flat plates poking out along its spine, but what’s interesting about this stegosaur is that the plates only cover a small portion of its body along its neck, giving way to much larger spikes that jut out along its spine and tail. Two of these two-foot long spikes can also be found on its front shoulders for a really unique, easily distinguishable look. Kentrosaurus also had a large tail and relatively short neck, and its front legs were significantly smaller than its rear (though not as drastically different as, say, a T-Rex’s arms and legs). At over two tons and spanning over 15 feet in length and 11 feet in height, the Kentrosaurus was a fairly large dinosaur that was intimidating to look at, giving it an edge over many potential predators.
Physical Attributes of Kentrosaurus
The Kentrosaurus was somewhat awkwardly shaped and featured in terms of symmetry or what you might expect a dinosaur to look like off the top of your head. The rather longer hind legs (about twice the size of the fore legs) positioned the back of its body higher up, meaning that its neck and head were pointed down along its spine, bringing them close to the earth. Their greater size may have allowed the herbivore to stand up for brief periods of time on two legs, giving it freedom to reach up to eat higher foliage on trees and branches. But mostly the structure of this dinosaur was in place to make it easier for it to reach lower plants, particularly vegetation growing up from the ground.
While it’s easy to identify the purpose of the famous spikes present in such members of the stegosaur family as the Kentrosaurus as protection from predators, it’s not quite as easy to pinpoint what the reason was for the plates. As each plate housed a large amount of blood vessels, it is possible that they existed to help regulate their body temperature, but it is also possible that they were used for showy displays during mating season or simply for neck protection. They also had very long, powerful tails beneath their spikes.
What Did Kentrosaurus Eat?
As an herbivore with low access to the ground, the Kentrosaurus primarily ate the greenery sprouting up from the earth. Its beak was narrow and toothless and it had few cheek teeth beyond its beak, making it impossible for it to eat anything other than the generally low-lying plant materials it found close to its head. There have been select traces of modest teeth deeper inside these dinosaurs’ mouths than their beaks, allowing for very minimal chewing. Consequently, the Kentrosaurus swallowed most of its plant matter in fairly large chunks. Due to their massive size, these creatures had to consume a substantial amount of food too keep them running, meaning they spent much of their active time looking for food or eating.
Physical Attributes – Spikes, Plates, and Tail
It’s easy to see why this dinosaur was such a fearsome defender. At two feet long, the two rows of spikes along over half of the Kentrosaurus’s body could have scared away opposition on their own, but if things got heated they would prevent larger carnivores from biting down on them easily. Imagine trying to bite down on a halved pineapple or a porcupine, and you can see why smarter hunters may have avoided attacking them altogether. The plates could have at least served a similar defensive service, but their presence makes this stegosaur very interesting and a bit puzzling to many researchers.
Looking so much at those flashy protrusions also distracts from what may be the most dangerous aspect of the herbivore: its tail. Researchers have been compiling more and more data on the Kentrosaurus, and have begun to believe that most of its might came into play in the form of its powerful, spiked rear appendage. Its raw swinging ability alone would have caused problems with its enemies, as some speculate that the Kentrosaurus may have been able to strike with it at speeds of over 30 miles an hour (50 km), but factor in the two-foot long spikes jutting out from it and you can begin to see the type of damage it could do.
Kentrosaurus’s Brain Power—or Lack Thereof
Like the rest of its stegosaur brethren, the Kentrosaurus had a very small brain, particularly considering its body size. The walnut-sized (and somewhat walnut-shaped) organ in its mostly toothless head had to do a lot of work to keep the bulky body of its owner functioning. The one advantage of the Kentrosaurus’s brain was that it featured extremely advanced olfactory nerves, meaning that it had a tremendous sense of smell. While the Kentrosaurus may not have been intelligent enough to avoid predators, it was equipped more than well enough to hold them off; and though it may not have been intelligent enough to find food efficiently, its superb sense of smell helped it find food with relative ease. There is some reason to believe that Kentrosaurus developed a slightly larger brain over the course of its existence as a species, but even the youngest remains show that this dinosaur was no thinker.
What Kind of Environment Did Kentrosaurus Live In?
Kentrosauruses roamed around what is known today as Africa, particularly in the eastern region, where large carnivores like the Allosaurus would attempt to prey on them. The warm, lush forests of eastern Africa supplied Kentrosaurus with the sustenance it needed, so the species stayed close by, follow the inherent sense of smell and chomping on the thick vegetation.
What Kentrosaurus’s Location Shows about Geography
Many other stegosaurs have been found in regions completely separate from Kentrosaurus’s eastern African home, most notable Stegosaurus, whose roaming grounds have been shown to exist in North America. Today these continents are separated by a vast ocean, making their link seem impossible, but at the time of their existence the world looked very different. Because the lands of Earth were joined together as the supercontinent known as Pangaea, it was possible for the two species to live close to each other before the earth separated after their extinction, taking their remains along for the ride.
Kentrosaurus and Its Predators
With its somewhat large size and intimidating outward appearance and its ability to smell other dinosaurs approaching it, predators of the Kentrosaurus were few. Though smaller carnivores may have had an advantage by having easier access to the sides and underbelly of the spiked dinosaur, only the large, bold hunters posed a threat, and those brave enough to take it on were few.
The Discovery of Kentrosaurus
The first remains of a Kentrosaurus were discovered by German explorer Werner Janensch in the early 1900s, though the image that we have of the dinosaur (as well as its name) was formed by another German several years later, paleontologist Edwin Hennig. He and his company found a large number of bones, many of which were damaged, unfortunately during wartime in Germany many years later. Still, the figure put in place by remains Hennig selected remained intact in a museum, and the biggest singular collection of remains from a single specimen have held strong through the years.
The Importance of Kentrosaurus
Kentrosaurus is an important paleontological discovery because it lends information pertinent to the diversity found within the stegosaur group of dinosaurs. Kentrosaurus also tells paleontologists a lot about the state of the world’s continents during the Jurassic period.