Shantungosaurus (meaning “Shandong lizard”) is a genus of saurolophine hadrosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now China. It was a large hadrosaurid, possibly the largest member of the clade. The largest Shantungosaurus giganteus specimen known is estimated to have reached lengths of 15 meters.

Key Facts

Shantungosaurus pronunciationshan-TUN-go-sore-us
What does Shantungosaurus mean?Shantung lizard
Dinosaur typeEuornithopod
On the menuHerbivorous
Length15 meters ( 50 feet)
Height7 m (23 feet )
Weight15 tons (about  33000 lbs)
Life expectancy40-50 years
Legs used to get aroundBipedal/quadruped
Estimated top speed33 km/h (22mph)
When they livedLate Cretaceous era 78-74  million years ago
Where they have been found?China

When & Where

Only a handful of Shantungosaurus giganteus skeletons have ever been found—all in China. The first remains were discovered in 1973 in the Shandong Province and described by a paleontologist named Hu. Years later, five more individuals were uncovered in the Wangshi Formation of the Shandong Peninsula, which dates back to the late Cretaceous period.

Size & Weight

This dinosaur was one of the largest of its time—and possibly the largest hadrosaurid that ever lived. Some scientists believe Shantungosaurus giganteus could have reached lengths of up to 49 feet (15 meters) and weighed as much as 33,000 pounds (15 metric tons). That’s equivalent to 10 African elephants!

Shantungosaurus is known from over a dozen specimens, the majority of which are fragmentary. The holotype,  recovered in 1973, is the most complete and consists of a partial skeleton with a partial skull. 

It is distinguished from other hadrosaurids by a number of features, most notably its powerful jaw, containing multiple groups of teeth known as dental batteries. They were set in up to 60 vertical grooves and numbered in the hundreds.

Mobility & Diet

Shantungosaurus was a bipedal (meaning it walked on two legs) and quadrupedal (meaning it could also walk on all fours) dinosaur. When on all fours, it would have been about 23 feet (7 meters) tall—about the size of a two-story house. Though it was a heavy creature, Shantungosaurus was probably quite agile, running at speeds of up to 23 miles per hour (37 kilometers per hour).

This dinosaur was an herbivore, which means it only ate plants. Its teeth were specially adapted for grinding up tough plant matter. To do this, the teeth were set in up to 60 vertical grooves and numbered in the hundreds. This configuration is known as a “dental battery.” New teeth would grow to replace old ones as they wore down or fell out.

Interesting Points

  • The Shantungosaurus had a large hole near its nostrils, which may have been covered by a loose flap of skin. This could have been inflated to make sounds.
  • Scientists discovered fossilized skin impressions that revealed the Shantungosaurus had five-fingered hands that were webbed with thick, supportive pads.
  • The Shantungosaurus skull was flat, unlike other hadrosaurids, which had crested skulls.
  • This dinosaur’s snout ended in a toothless, horn-covered beak that looked like a duck’s. Because of this, Shantungosaurus was nicknamed the “duck-billed dinosaur.”
  • The Shantungosaurus browsed along muddy riverbanks and shores, eating aquatic plant material.

Featured Image Credit: Debivort, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons