Anodontosaurus: The Enigmatic Herbivore of the Late Cretaceous Period

Imagine a time when colossal creatures roamed the Earth–a time when every day was a struggle for survival in a world that was as dangerous as it was exciting. This was the world in which we find the Anodontosaurus, a fascinating dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous period. Despite its name, which translates to “toothless lizard,” this dinosaur was anything but defenseless.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll embark on a journey back in time, exploring the life and times of this intriguing creature. We’ll delve into its origins, its unique features, and the environment it thrived in. Get ready for a trip to a time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

Key Facts

Key FactDetail
Anodontosaurus pronunciationan-o-dont-o-saw-ruhs
Meaning of nameToothless lizard
Type SpeciesAnodontosaurus lambei
When it Lived83.5 to 66.0 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochLate Campanian to Late Maastrichtian
Length16.0 to 20.0 ft
Height6.5 ft
Weight2.2 tons
MobilityMoved on all four
First Discovery1916 by Charles Mortram Sternberg
Location of first findAlberta, Canada
First Described1929 by Charles Mortram Sternberg
HolotypeCMN 8530

Anodontosaurus Origins: Taxonomy, Timeline, and Discovery

Let’s start at the beginning, with the name of our dinosaur. Anodontosaurus, a name derived from the Greek words “anodontos” meaning “toothless” and “sauros” meaning “lizard,” is a fascinating creature from the Late Cretaceous period. This name gives us a hint about one of its most distinctive features, but as we’ll see, there’s much more to this dinosaur than its lack of teeth.

Black and white illustration of Anodontosaurus, a heavily armored dinosaur with bony plates covering its body and a club-like tail.
image by Levi bernardo is license under CC BY-SA 3.0

In terms of taxonomy, the Anodontosaurus belongs to the Ankylosauria group, specifically the Ankylosauridae family. Within this genus, two species have been identified: Anodontosaurus lambei and Anodontosaurus inceptus. These classifications help us understand the dinosaur’s place in the grand scheme of evolution, showing us how it relates to other dinosaurs of its time.

It lived during the Late Campanian to Late Maastrichtian epoch, which places it firmly within the Late Cretaceous period at a time when dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates. It’s fascinating to think about the world as it was then, where creatures like this were commonplace.

The first discovery was made in 1916 by the American-Canadian paleontologist Charles Mortram Sternberg. The location of this find was in Alberta, Canada, a place that has proven to be a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils. Sternberg’s discovery was a significant contribution to our understanding of these ancient creatures, providing us with valuable insights into their existence.

Fossil Evidence

It was first discovered in Alberta, Canada, back in 1916 by Charles Mortram Sternberg, a renowned American-Canadian paleontologist. This initial discovery was a significant milestone in our understanding of the Ankylosauridae family of dinosaurs. Sternberg’s find was not the last, however. Over the years, more fossils attributed to this have been unearthed, further enriching our knowledge of this fascinating creature and identifying a second species.

Fossilized tail club of Ankylosaurus magniventris, showing the large, rounded bony structure used for defense
image by Domser is license under CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Most of these subsequent discoveries have also been made in Alberta, Canada, indicating that this region was a primary habitat for the Anodontosaurus during the Late Cretaceous period. The fossils found have varied in their degree of preservation, with some specimens providing a wealth of detail about the dinosaur’s physical characteristics. These finds have been instrumental in piecing together a more complete picture, from its size and shape to its unique features.

One of the most notable specimens is a nearly complete skeleton discovered in the late 20th century. This specimen, which is now housed in a museum in Canada, has provided invaluable insights into the dinosaur’s anatomy and lifestyle. It’s through finds like these that we’ve been able to learn so much about this herbivorous dinosaur and the world it lived in.

Anodontosaurus Size and Description

Before we delve into the specifics of the size and physical characteristics, let’s take a moment to appreciate the overall picture. This dinosaur was a member of the Ankylosauridae family, known for their armored bodies and distinctive club-like tails–but this dinosaur had its own unique features that set it apart from its relatives.

Short description of Anodontosaurus

It was a quadrupedal dinosaur, meaning it moved on all four limbs. Its body was covered in bony armor, providing it with a formidable defense against predators. The head was small and triangular, with a beak-like mouth that was well-suited to its herbivorous diet. Its tail ended in a heavy club, a feature common to many Ankylosaurids, which it could have used as a weapon against predators.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Its size and weight are topics of ongoing research. As of now, there are no definitive measurements for this dinosaur. However, based on related Ankylosaurids, it’s reasonable to assume that this was a medium-sized dinosaur, possibly reaching lengths of up to 20 feet and weights of several tons. As more fossils are discovered and studied, we hope to gain a more accurate understanding of this dinosaur’s size and weight.

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The Dinosaur in Detail

This was not just another dinosaur. It had a number of unique features that set it apart from its contemporaries. One of these was its armor, a series of bony plates and spikes that covered its body. This armor was not just for show; as it provided the Anodontosaurus with a formidable defense against predators.

Another distinctive feature of the Anodontosaurus was its club-like tail. This tail, which was likely used as a weapon, is a characteristic feature of the Ankylosauridae family. The tail was particularly robust, suggesting that it played a significant role in the dinosaur’s survival.

Finally, we come to the Anodontosaurus’s teeth, or rather, its lack thereof. Despite its name, the Anodontosaurus did have teeth but they were small and not well-suited for chewing. Instead, this dinosaur likely used its beak-like mouth to strip leaves and other vegetation, which it then swallowed. 

As an herbivorous dinosaur, its diet consisted of plant matter. This is supported by its beak-like mouth and small teeth which it could have used to feed on a variety of vegetation that was prevalent during the Late Cretaceous period. Its feeding habits, combined with its armored body and club-like tail, paint a picture of a dinosaur that was well-adapted to its environment and capable of fending off predators.

The Anodontosaurus in its Natural Habitat

This dinosaur lived during the Late Cretaceous period, a time when the Earth was a very different place than it is today. In North America, this difference is highlighted by the large interior seaway that split the continent into two. The western continent, known as Laramidia, is where the Anodontosaurus made its home. The climate here was warmer and the landscape was dominated by vast forests and swamps. This environment would have provided it with plenty of vegetation to feed on as well as ample cover from predators.

As an herbivore, the Anodontosaurus would have played a crucial role in its ecosystem. It would have helped to shape the landscape by feeding on vegetation and its droppings would have contributed to the nutrient cycle, helping to fertilize the soil. Its feeding habits may also have influenced the types of plants that were able to thrive in its environment.

It was a quadrupedal dinosaur, meaning it moved on all four limbs. This mode of locomotion combined with its armored body and club-like tail would have made it a formidable presence in its environment. It’s likely that the Anodontosaurus was a target for predators but its defensive features would have made it a difficult prey.

Interesting Points about Anodontosaurus

  • Despite its name, the Anodontosaurus did have teeth, but they were small and not well-suited for chewing.
  • The tail ended in a heavy club, a feature common to many Ankylosaurids. Possibly it could have been used as a weapon against predators.
  •  It was an herbivore and it likely fed on a variety of vegetation that was prevalent during the Late Cretaceous.
  • The body was covered in bony armor, providing it with a formidable defense against predators.
  • Most of the fossils have been found in Alberta, Canada. Indicating that this region was a primary habitat for this dinosaur.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

Imagine, if you will, the Anodontosaurus–a heavily fortified herbivore roaming alongside a wide range of Laramidian dinosaurs. One of these was the Atrociraptor. This smaller dinosaur, swift and agile, might have darted around the larger Anodontosaurus. The contrast in their sizes paints a vivid picture of the diversity of life during this period. Each creature perfectly adapted to its own niche in the ecosystem.

Then there was the Colepiocephale, a dinosaur known for its thick, domed skull. It’s conceivable that the Anodontosaurus observed these creatures, their hardy heads a stark contrast to its own formidable armor. Despite their differences, these dinosaurs shared a common world, their lives intertwined in ways we can only begin to imagine.

The Coronosaurus, another contemporary, presents an interesting comparison to the Anodontosaurus. Both herbivores, they might have grazed side by side, a testament to the abundance of plant life that sustained them. Yet, their coexistence was not without competition, as they vied for the same resources. This dynamic, a delicate balance of cooperation and competition, underscores the complexity of their shared world.

By exploring the Anodontosaurus and its contemporaries we gain a deeper understanding of the intricate relationships that defined their existence. Through this lens, we can appreciate the richness of prehistoric life and the constant interplay of survival and adaptation.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. We aim to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the dinosaurs. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

Article last fact checked:Joey Arboleda, 06-10-2023

Featured Image Credit: Levi bernardoCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons