The word “dinosaur” brings to mind images of terrifying carnivores tearing into flesh, but many dinosaurs were herbivores. They ate plants, like grass, trees, and ferns.
Some herbivorous dinosaurs used a technique similar to birds to swallow their food instead of chewing it. Fossils show that these dinosaurs had gizzards and stomach stones to crush their plants before they went into their guts.
Roaming the Earth between 156 and 145 million years ago, Brachiosaurus was one of the largest dinosaurs to ever live. This massive sauropod, or group of vertebrae, was over 80 feet long and weighed over 28 tons—about as much as four African elephants. Experts think that Brachiosaurus was a herbivore. These creatures ate ferns, conifers, ginkgoes, and other tough plants. They probably lived in herds and used their tall necks to eat the leaves that fell from above.
The skeletal remains of Brachiosaurus are some of the best-studied in the world. Scientists know that this creature was very slow-growing and took a very long time to reach its full size. They also know that it was likely endothermic, a warm-blooded animal. As such, it would have needed a huge amount of food to meet its daily energy requirements.
In addition to being slow-growing, Brachiosaurus had other features that made it unusual among its peers. For example, it had a curved back that made it look like a giant tree trunk. The neck also looked strange, with a S-curve at the top and bottom sections and a straight middle section. Scientists believe that the curve at the top of the neck was formed by overlapping ribs.
These features helped the neck to hold its heavy weight without becoming too stiff or rigid. The neck could also be angled downward to help the Brachiosaurus graze in low places and reach difficult-to-reach branches. Brachiosaurus had a large skull with thick jaw bones that housed spoon-shaped teeth, ideal for stripping vegetation.
Like other herding animals, Brachiosaurus lived in a herd with a dominant male and female. It communicated with other members of the herd using a series of song-like calls and a system of “stomping” signals transmitted through pads on its feet. It also had a strong tail that it used to warn predators away from the herd or to wind an enemy.
The herds of Brachiosaurus were often spread out so that the herd didn’t overgraze the land. They were also well-protected from predators by their large sizes. Despite this, herds were sometimes raided by theropods such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.
Triceratops was one of the most recognizable dinosaurs, known for its three horned head and large frill. It was a herbivore that roamed North America in herds during the late Cretaceous period. Its enormous horns were powerful weapons that it used to defend itself from predators and to mark territory. Triceratops was also a very good climber and could even run up to 35 miles per hour.
It was the largest herbivorous dinosaur to have ever lived and it was also among the most dangerous, capable of killing a Tyrannosaurus in battle. This dinosaur had the thickest skull of any non-bird dinosaur and its massive horns were sharp enough to cut through steel. It also had the longest neck of any animal ever created and its mouth was shaped like a beak, making it perfect for grabbing and eating vegetation. The fossils of this dinosaur show that its jaws were filled with hundreds of teeth grouped in ‘batteries’ that could be flattened for chewing and to help break down the plant matter for easier digestion.
Researchers believe that this herbivore fed on ferns, cycads, small palm trees, and other low-growing vegetation that was easily accessible because of its lower head position. They were also able to use their massive size and weight to topple taller plants for easier access. They were opportunistic grazers and would also occasionally consume meat, although this was rare.
Triceratops got along well with other herbivorous dinosaurs and they often coexisted with sauropods such as Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Stegosaurus. It was a very aggressive animal that used its horns and neck frill to defend itself from other males fighting for dominance and mating rights. Fights usually ended when one animal lost a horn or suffered a serious injury. Males were also very hot tempered and tended to fight over territory, driving away weaker competitors.
This herbivorous dinosaur lived in a wide range of habitats and favored fern prairies, wetlands, and floodplains. It also ate grass, small trees, shrubs, and flowers. It was an opportunistic eater and would eat anything it was able to reach with its beak, but this sometimes led to Melia-toxicity, a condition in which the body is unable to process certain chemicals from plants. This condition is fatal unless treated with anti-venom.
The fossils of Protoceratops have been found in the Hell Creek Formation and in the Djadochta Formation in Mongolia. The fossils have shown that the frill grew in size as the dinosaur grew older. This led scientists to believe that the frills may have been used for displays and in competition between males for females. The horns on the dinosaur’s head could also have been used in display.
Fossils of Protoceratops have been discovered in sandy pits, suggesting that these herbivores were adapted to desert environments. They were likely to have eaten a variety of plants, including the Cycads and possibly small mammals. The Protoceratops fossils have also demonstrated sexual dimorphism. The males were much larger than the females. The larger males also had a bigger frill and a bump on the snout or nose that some researchers believe may have been the start of a horn.
Another intriguing feature of this herbivore is that its eyes were very large. This was a common feature of ceratopsian dinosaurs, but is not always seen in other dinosaurs. Comparisons of scleral rings have indicated that the Protoceratops had a cathemeral lifestyle, being active during short intervals throughout the day. This suggests that a fight between this dinosaur and the nocturnal Velociraptor, which is suggested by some of the fossils of their bones, probably took place at twilight or under low light conditions.
It was thought that all dinosaurs lived in swampy forests, but the discovery of Protoceratops fossils in desert areas of China and Mongolia changed this view. The fossils of these herbivores have been found with soft-shelled eggs, showing that they were capable of laying and hatching in hot and dry environments.
Anchiceratops (pronounced an-cheh-CRAH-tops) was a dinosaur that lived in what is now Alberta, Canada at the end of the Cretaceous period. It was a relative of Triceratops, Wyoming’s state dinosaur, and differed from it in having a larger more ornate frill. It is also the first horned dinosaur to have been discovered with a cloaca, a single opening that was used for excretion, mating and laying eggs.
The cloaca was about the size of a chicken’s egg and was in the middle of the dinosaur’s back just under its neck. This opening is similar to the ones found in birds and certain reptiles, so it has been assumed for a long time that dinosaurs had them as well. It was not until recently that a specimen was found with the cloaca clearly visible, indicating that this particular dinosaur did indeed have a cloaca.
Like other ceratopsian dinosaurs, Anchiceratops was an herbivore that probably fed on low-lying vegetation such as ferns and cycads. Its skull was adorned with horns, which would have been useful for defense from carnivorous dinosaurs that were its main predators.
Anchiceratops was one of the last of its kind to appear before the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous that killed off all dinosaurs. It is thought to be a transitional species between Monoclonius and Triceratops, sharing many features with both but differing in how its frill developed.
Fossils of Anchiceratops are known from several locations in Western Canada and the United States. Most of the fossils are of the skull, although fragments of the spine have been recovered as well. Its name is derived from the Greek words an-chi-(near) and ceratops (horned face). The specific name, ornatus, means ornamental frill.
The dinosaur’s body color is a light greenish yellow from head to tail with dark charcoal gray lines separating the large osteoderms that cover its front and back. These lines give the impression of a patterned bib. Unlike Pentaceratops and some other ceratopsian dinosaurs, it lacked a concavity on its frill’s rear margin and had small parietal fenestrae (openings) in its head.