Sauropelta ‭(‬Lizard shield‭)

Short Info

Sauropelta ‭(‬Lizard shield‭)

Phonetic : Sore-oh-pel-tah

Named By : John Ostrom‭ ‬-‭ ‬1970

Diet : Herbivore

Size : 5 – 6 meters long

Type of Dinosaur : Armoured Dinosaur

Type Species : S.‭ ‬edwardsorum‭ (‬type‭)

Found in : USA,‭ ‬Wyoming and Montana‭ ‬-‭ ‬Cloverly Formation

When it Lived : Early Cretaceous, 121-94 million years ago

Sauropelta (/,so:roU’pelt@/ SAWR-oPEL-t@, which translates to “lizard shield”) is the name of a species in the family of nodosaurid dinosaurs which existed during the Early Cretaceous Period of North America. A single species (S. Edwardsorum) has been identified, though other species could exist. Anatomicallyspeaking, Sauropelta is among the best-understood of nodosaurids with fossilized remains found within some of the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and possibly Utah. The Sauropelta genus is among the oldest known genus for nodosaurids. the majority of its remains were located in the Cloverly Formation that dates back up to 108.5 million years ago.


SauropeltaRyan Somma, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The animal was medium-sized dinosaur, with a length of 5.2 metres (17.1 feet) long. Sauropelta was notable for its long tail that accounted for roughly half its body length. While its body was less than that of a modern rhinoceros, Sauropelta was about the same size, and weighed around 1,500 kg (3,300 lbs). The weight gain was mostly because of its large amount of boney armor, including its characteristically massive spines that protruded off its neck.

Sauropelta was a massively built Quadrupedal herbivore, with an estimated body length of 5.2 meters (17.1 feet). In 2010, Gregory S. Paul estimated it to be 6 meters (19.7 feet) as well as 2 tons (2.2 small tons). Thomas Holtz gave a higher estimate that was 7.6 metres (25 feet). The skull appeared triangular when looking from above, with the back side being wider than the snout that tapered. The skull of one was 35 centimeters (13.75 in) in size at its broadest point in front of the eye. In contrast to other nodosaurids the skull’s roof was flat and not domed. The skull’s roof was extremely thick and was is covered with flat, bony plates which are so tightly bonded that there appears to be none of the sutures (boundaries) as that are found within Panoplosaurus, Pawpawsaurus, Silvisaurus and a myriad of other ankylosaurs. It could be an effect from preservation, or even preparation. Like other ankylosaurs the scutes are thick and triangular. They were carved out of the postorbital bone, over and below the eye, and the jugal bone below and in front of the eye. For nodosaurids, leaves-shaped teeth lined both the upper and lower jaws. They were which were used to cut plant matter. The front part of the skull is not known however there could be a bone line (tomium) located at the top of both the upper jaws, similar to those observed on other ankylosaurs. This ridge would likely have been a support for a keratinous jaw.

Tails of Sauropelta was typically long and constituted almost half of the length of the body. One skeleton was able to preserve the caudal (tail) vertebrae, but certain vertebrae were missing, suggesting that the actual number of vertebrae caudal may exceed fifty. The tendons that had been ossified tightened the tail’s length. Similar to other ankylosaurs Sauropelta had a broad body with a wide pelvis and ribcage. The forelimbs were longer than hindlimbs, which caused an arched back that had the highest point being over the hips. The feet, limbs the pelvis, and shoulders were all constructed with strength and reinforced to bear an enormous amount of weight. American paleontologist Ken Carpenter estimated the mass of S. Edwardsorum to be 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds).

Similar to other nodosaurids Sauropelta was covered in armor made of bony masses that were embedded within the skin (osteoderms). A skeleton was discovered that had the body armor preserved provided Carpenter as well as other researchers to precisely explain this defense. Two lines of domed scutes swung along the neck’s top, across the anteroposterior line (front from back). On the upper surfaces of the back and the tail the skin surface was covered with tiny nodules of bone (ossicles) that separated larger conical scutes that were arranged in rows parallel to the medialateral the axis (side towards side). On the hips, the ossicles as well as bigger domed plates joined extremely tightly, creating an organ called a sacral shield. This shield is also seen in ankylosaurs such as Polacanthus as well as Antarctopelta. The large pointed spines were found along on the side of the neck expanding in size toward the shoulders, then diminuting in size along the sides of the neck until the point where they stop ahead of the hips. Between the hips triangular flat plates lined the neck both sides, pointing towards the lateral (outwards) and diminuting by size toward the bottom in the length. Carpenter initially identified the cervical (neck) spines and caudal plates as being belonging to only one row on both sides however, more recently, the duo of him along with Jim Kirkland reconstructed them in two rows parallel on both sides, with one over the other. In the upper cervical spines, they was pointed downwards and backwards (posterodorsally) and the lower row pointed forwards towards the outside (posterolaterally). Bases of every cervical spine pair and the caudal plates were joined and severely limited the movement of both the neck and the upper tail.

Source: Wikipedia