The Saltasaurus was a herbivorous sauropod dinosaur known for its unique armoured skin and dorsal and side plates. It lived in the Late Cretaceous period, about 70.6 to 66 million years ago, in what is now Argentina, South America.

Key Facts

Saltasaurus pronunciationSaw-lt-ta-saw-rus
What does Saltasaurus mean?Lizard from Salta
Dinosaur typeSauropod
On the menuHerbivorous
Length12 meters ( 39 feet)
Height2.5 m (8 feet 6 inches)
Weight7 tons (about 14000 lbs)
Life expectancyUnknown
Legs used to get aroundQuadruped
Estimated top speedSlow moving sauropod
When they livedLate Cretaceous era (70.6-66 million years ago)
Where they have been found?Argentina

When & Where

The Saltasaurus was first discovered in Salta, Argentina in 1980 by Dr. Jose Fernando Bonaparte and was named after the place it was found. The first Saltasaurus fossil was found in the Los Colorados Formation, which is a Late Cretaceous geological formation. This area is now a national park called Ischigualasto-Villa Unión.

Years later, in 1997, a nesting site for Saltasaurus was discovered in Auca Mahuevo, Patagonia. This discovery included about 25 eggs, embryonic remains, and a juvenile individual. This is the first known sauropod nesting site, and it provided insight into how these animals reproduced.

Size & Weight

Though much is still unknown about the Saltasaurus, scientists have been able to estimate its size using the bones that have been found. They believe it was 12 metres long and 2.5 metres high (39 feet by 8 feet 2 inches). It is thought to have weighed around 7 tons (14 000 lbs).

This size is still relatively small compared to other sauropods but is on the larger side for a titanosaur.

Mobility & Diet

The Saltasaurus was herbivorous and had peg-like teeth that it used to strip leaves from trees. It is thought that its small size may have been an adaptation to the limited food sources available in its environment.

Fossils of plants found in the same area as the Saltasaurus suggest that the environment was arid with little vegetation.

The Saltasaurus moved around on all fours but could rear up on its strong hind legs to reach higher leaves. There are no reliable predictions of its top speed.

Due to its hippo-like build, it is believed that the Saltasaurus also spent time in the water to stay cool and avoid predators.

Interesting Points

  • The Saltasaurus had a unique feature among sauropods – bony plates embedded in its skin to provide protection from predators.
  • The Saltasaurus had wide nostrils, which may have been an adaptation to the hot, dry environment in which it lived.
  • The first Saltasaurus fossil was found by Dr. Jose Fernando Bonaparte, who named it after the place it was found – Salta, Argentina.
  • Saltasaurus eggs recovered in 1997 revealed that these dinosaurs already had armoured skin at birth.
  • The Saltasaurus may have used the thin end of their tails as a whip to defend themselves from predators.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, Via Wikimedia Commons