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Quick Facts
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Archosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Family: Plateosauridae
Genus: Plateosaurus
Species: engelhardti

Height: 156 inches
Length: 276 - 324 inches
Weight: 1500 lbs

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Plateosaurus engelhardti

Plateosaurus’s name means “flat lizard.” Living in the late Triassic period (about 210 to 195 million years ago), it was one of the first of the large plant eating dinosaurs (herbivoresWhat does herbivores mean?) with a long neck and tail. Before plateosaurus came along, herbivores were generally shorter and stockier with short necks. Plateosaurus grew between 23 and 27 feet long, about 13 feet tall, and weighed as much as 1500 pounds. Its neck, tail, and legs were fairly long, and its back legs were larger than the front legs. It had a small head, jaws that resembled a beak, and teeth shaped like a spear point with jagged edges. Its toes were long and outfitted with claws. The thumb claws were large and looked like spikes, and were held up off the ground when the animal walked. Some paleontologists believe plateosaurus used its thumb spikes for defense. Several species of plateosaurus have been identified.

Plateosaurus ate the leaves and needles of cycad (palm-like) and coniferWhat does conifer mean? (pine-type) trees, the common large trees of its time. With its long neck and strong hands, plateosaurus could graze the tops of trees and pull limbs down. Paleontologists believe it was one of the first of the large animals to eat strictly plants and to reach the tree tops, standing on its hind legs to do so. It may have used its large thumb claws to rake leaves into its mouth. Plateosaurus’s teeth had jagged edges, perfect for sawing off tough plant matter, although they were not much use for grinding, so like most herbivoresWhat does herbivores mean? it probably swallowed stones to help break down food in its stomach.

Plateosaurus lived in desert-like areas of Europe which are now Germany, France, and Switzerland. The climate was hot and dry. The Supercontinent of Pangea, when all land masses were connected, formed at the beginning of the Triassic. This single, large land mass was a habitat that had very little shoreline and was very hot and dry in the middle, with no ice at the poles.

Paleontologists disagree on how well Plateosaurus defended itself. Some believe it may have been easy preyWhat does prey mean? for powerful carnivores, as its teeth were weak and its claws not very effective. Others believe that the large thumb claws and powerful hind legs were very effective for defense.

Since there are areas where many fossils of plateosaurus were found together, paleontologists believe that they may have lived in herds. Faced with dry conditions and a lack of living trees at times, they may have migratedWhat does migrated mean? to find food during severe droughts.

Plateosaurus had a very small brain compared to other dinosaurs, and it probably was not very intelligent.

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