The Centrosaurus (meaning “pointed lizard”) is a genus of ceratopsid dinosaurs that lived in what is now North America during the Late Cretaceous period, from about 77.6 to 75.5 million years ago. The type species is Centrosaurus apertus, first described in 1904 by Canadian palaeontologist Lawrence Lambe.

Key Facts

Centrosaurus pronunciationCen-TROH-sore-us
What does Centrosaurus mean?Sharp-pointed lizard
Dinosaur typeCeratopsian
On the menuHerbivorous
Length6 meters ( 20 feet)
Height2.3 m (8 feet)
Weight1000kg  (about 2200 lbs)
Life expectancyUnknown
Legs used to get aroundQuadruped
Estimated top speed32 km/h (20mph)
When they livedLate Cretaceous era, 76-74 million years ago.
Where they have been found?Canada

When & Where

In 1904, Lawrence Lambe discovered and named the first Centrosaurus apertus in Dinosaur Provincial Park, southern Alberta, Canada. On a further survey of the area, scientists discovered a massive Centrosaurus graveyard in the Red Deer River valley, also in Canada. From this site, they uncovered the remains of over 400 individuals of all ages and stages of life, providing insight into this dinosaur’s social behavior and growth patterns.

Fossils of different species of Centrosaurus have also been found in the United States, including Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

Size & Weight

Like other ceratopsians, Centrosaurus was a large dinosaur. It grew to be about 6 meters (20 feet) long and 2.3 m (8 feet) tall at the shoulder and weighed around 1000 kg (about 2200 lbs). This big build would have made it one of the largest land animals of its time.

The Centrosaurus is often confused with the Kentrosaurus and the Styracosaurus, which also had large horns and frills. The Centrosaurus had a long nose horn with smaller bone hooks bent above each eye, while the Kentrosaurus had a shorter nose horn and large horns above its eyes. The Styracosaurus had two long horns pointing backward from its frill and a short nose.

Mobility & Diet

Centrosaurus was a herbivore and probably fed on a diet of plants, shrubs, fruits, and vegetables. It is thought that it used its beak and leaf-shaped teeth to bite off pieces of vegetation, which it then chewed with the help of bony growths in its mouth called dental batteries.

Quadrupedal, Centrosaurus moved around on all four legs. It was relatively fast for its size and could run at speeds of up to 32 km/h (20 mph). All four of its limbs were strong and ended in hooves, which would have provided good traction as it ran.

Interesting Points

  • The Centrosaurus used its frill to defend itself against formidable predators like the Tyrannosaurus rex. The frill was made of bone and could measure up to 1 meter (3 feet) long. It was covered in spikes, which served as a barrier between the Centrosaurus’ head and neck and the teeth of its would-be attacker.
  • Scientists believe that males may have used their horns and frills to intimidate rivals and attract mates. The horns may have also come in handy when two males butted heads during fights.
  • Despite its large size, Centrosaurus was light on its feet thanks to air pockets in its bones, which made the skeleton hollow and much lighter than that of other dinosaurs.
  • The Centrosaurus is one of the most studied dinosaurs because of the large number of fossils that have been found.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons