Wuerhosaurus: A Journey Back to the Early Cretaceous Era

In this post we’re embarking on a thrilling journey back in time to the Early Cretaceous period. This was a time when a unique creature roamed the Earth–the Wuerhosaurus. This intriguing dinosaur belonged to the Stegosauria group and has a captivating story that we’re eager to share with you.

Key facts

KeywordFact
Wuerhosaurus pronunciationwoo-uhr-huh-sore-us
Meaning of nameWuerho lizard
GroupStegosauria
Type SpeciesWuerhosaurus homheni
DietHerbivore
When it Lived122.46 to 100.5 MYA
PeriodEarly Cretaceous
EpochLate/Upper Aptian to Albian
Length23.0 ft
Height9.8 ft
Weight4.0 tons
MobilityMoved on all four
First Discovery1973 by Dong Zhiming
Location of first findXinjiang, Western China.
First Described by1973 by Dong Zhiming
HolotypeIVPP V.4006

Wuerhosaurus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

An illustration of Wuerhosaurus, a genus of stegosaurid dinosaur, depicted in a side profile. The dinosaur has a robust body covered with large, dark plates along its back and a series of spikes at the end of its tail.

The Wuerhosaurus, or “Wuerho lizard,” derives its name from the city of Wuerho in Karamay, China where its fossils were discovered. The suffix “sauros” is Greek for reptile or lizard, adding to the etymology of this dinosaur’s name.

Belonging to the Stegosauria group, Wuerhosaurus is a part of the Stegosauridae family. The genus Wuerhosaurus is home to the type species Wuerhosaurus homheni. This herbivorous dinosaur roamed the Earth during the Early Cretaceous period, marking its existence in the Upper Jurassic epoch.

The timeline of Wuerhosaurus takes place just over a hundred million years ago, making it one of the last known genera of stegosaurians. Most of its counterparts existed in the late Jurassic period, making the Wuerhosaurus a unique late survivor of its kind.

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Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The first discovery of these fossils dates back to 1973 by Dong Zhiming from the Tugulu Group in Xinjiang, western China.  Dong Zhiming didn’t just discover the fossils; he also described them in the same year, contributing significantly to our understanding of this dinosaur.

The holotype of Wuerhosaurus, labeled IVPP V.4006, was discovered in Wuerho city, Karamay, China. This location has since been a rich source of Wuerhosaurus fossils. In addition to China, fossils have also been found in Portugal, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, painting a broad geographical picture of this dinosaur’s existence.

The fossils discovered include various parts of the dinosaur’s body, providing valuable insights into its physical characteristics and lifestyle. The holotype is a partial skeleton that provides a glimpse into its physical structure and size.

Wuerhosaurus Size and Description

Let’s delve into the physical characteristics of the Wuerhosaurus, one of the last in a long line of fascinating creatures that once roamed our planet.

A vivid illustration of Wuerhosaurus, a stegosaurid dinosaur, shown walking through a dusty prehistoric landscape. The dinosaur has a row of large, vibrant red and black plates along its back and spikes at the end of its tail. Its body is adorned with a striking pattern of blue, orange, and black colors, giving it a bold appearance.
Pavel.Riha.CB, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Short description of Wuerhosaurus

This was a quadrupedal dinosaur, meaning it moved on all four legs. Its body was covered in bony plates and spikes for protection, a characteristic feature of the Stegosauria group. One of the most notable specimens of Wuerhosaurus is the holotype IVPP V.4006. This specimen has significantly contributed to our understanding of this dinosaur. The partial skeleton provides valuable insights into the dinosaur’s physical structure, including its robust body and defensive features.

Size and Weight of Type Species

The Wuerhosaurus was a medium-sized dinosaur. According to the Natural History Museum, it measured approximately 7.0 meters in length. However, the weight is not well-documented due to the incomplete nature of the fossil records. As for its height, it’s challenging to provide an accurate estimate without more comprehensive fossil evidence. However, considering its length and the general body structure of Stegosaurids, it’s reasonable to assume that the Wuerhosaurus was a sizeable creature.

The Dinosaur in Detail

This dinosaur is a testament to the marvels of evolution. Its unique features set it apart from other dinosaurs, reflecting its adaptability and survival instincts. The bony plates and spikes on its body, for instance, served as a defensive mechanism against predators. These features were not just for show; they were functional and vital for the dinosaur’s survival. It had a low-slung, robust body with a long, pointed tail. Its head was small compared to its body, and it had a short neck. The limbs of the Wuerhosaurus were stout in order to support its heavy body. Its skin likely had a rough texture similar to other dinosaurs of its kind.

It is also unique in its timeline. It existed during the Early Cretaceous period, making it one of the last known genera of stegosaurians. This timeline sets it apart from most of its counterparts, which existed in the late Jurassic period.

The Wuerhosaurus in its Natural Habitat

A detailed black and white illustration of the type species Wuerhosaurus homheni in a dense prehistoric forest setting. The Wuerhosaurus is shown in the foreground near a water body, featuring its distinctive row of plates along its back and spiked tail.
ABelov2014, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This herbivore lived during the Early Cretaceous period, a time when the Earth’s climate was warm and sea levels were high. The environment was likely lush with vegetation that provided ample food for this herbivorous dinosaur. It likely fed on low-lying plants by using its small head and beak-like mouth to graze.

As a quadrupedal dinosaur, the Wuerhosaurus moved on all four legs. This mode of locomotion suggests that it was a slow-moving creature that spent most of its time grazing and fending off predators with its bony plates and spikes. Its habitat was likely a mix of forests and open plains, providing both cover from predators and open grazing areas.

Like other stegosaurians, it likely had a low metabolic rate. This low metabolism, combined with its herbivorous diet, suggests that the Wuerhosaurus had a relatively long life expectancy. As for its social behavior, it’s challenging to say whether the Wuerhosaurus was a solitary creature or lived in herds without more comprehensive fossil evidence.

Interesting Points about Wuerhosaurus

  1. This is one of the last known genera of stegosaurians, surviving into the Early Cretaceous period.
  2. The name is derived from the city of Wuerho in Karamay, China, where its fossils were discovered.
  3. It was a quadrupedal dinosaur that moved on all four legs.
  4. The bony plates and spikes on its body served as a defensive mechanism against predators.
  5. The holotype, labeled IVPP V.4006, provides valuable insights into the dinosaur’s physical structure and defensive features.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

At the tail end of its lineage, this dinosaur existed alongside some of the same contemporaries its ancestors had. Among these were the Camarasaurus, Allosaurus, and Apatosaurus, each contributing to the intricate dynamics of their shared environment.

The Wuerhosaurus, with its distinctive armored body, might have found itself in stark contrast to the towering Camarasaurus. This colossal herbivore would have grazed on the high foliage due to its long neck serving as a natural advantage. In comparison, the Wuerhosaurus, considerably smaller, would have navigated the lower vegetation in a testament to nature’s balance. Meanwhile, the Apatosaurus was another giant of its time that might have been less of a direct competitor and more of a fellow denizen. The interactions between these herbivores would have been largely peaceful.

Yet, life in this ancient world was not without its perils. The Allosaurus might have posed a significant threat . Its presence would have added a layer of tension to the landscape, a constant reminder of the survival of the fittest. Through this lens, we can begin to appreciate the complex and vibrant world the Wuerhosaurus inhabited, a world where every creature, large or small, played a part in the symphony of prehistoric life.

List of All Dinosaurs

We have created a list of all dinosaurs we have covered here, sorted across the seven main groups of dinosaurs. We also include information about their type of diet, (omnivore, herbivore or carnivore) and the time they lived.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name mean?

The name means “Wuerho lizard.” It’s derived from the city of Wuerho in Karamay, China, where its fossils were discovered.

When did the Wuerhosaurus live?

It lived during the Early Cretaceous period, from 122.46 to 100.5 million years ago.

What did it eat?

It was an herbivore, meaning it ate plants. Its environment would have provided it plenty of vegetation to feed on.

How did this dinosaur move?

It was a quadrupedal dinosaur, meaning it moved on all four legs.

Where were the fossils found?

They were found in several locations, including England, China, Portugal, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Who discovered the Wuerhosaurus?

It was first discovered in 1973 by Dong Zhiming from the Tugulu Group in Xinjiang, western China.

Sources

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

This article was last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-13-2023

Featured Image Credit: Debivort, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons