Herbivore dinosaurs are those that ate plants like ferns, pine trees and even fruit. They were typically long and walked quadrupedally.
Scientists learn about herbivorous dinosaurs by studying fossilized plant remains. They also use other clues to figure out what dinosaurs ate, such as the shape of their teeth and jaws.
Like its relatives, such as the Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, and Giraffatitan, Brachiosaurus was a plant eater. It was a sauropod, and had a long neck that reached up to the tops of tall trees to feed.
Sauropods had spatulate (chisel-shaped) teeth that were adapted for stripping vegetation, and they swallowed their food whole without chewing it. This method of feeding allowed them to consume large quantities of plant material each day. This plant matter was then digested in their hindguts.
It is estimated that a full-grown Brachiosaurus required about half a tonne of dry plant matter each day. They tended to be herd animals and traveled in groups, moving on to different habitats when they depleted their local food supply. They had a whip-like tail that could be used to defend against the herds of carnivorous dinosaurs that would otherwise prey on them.
The most distinctive characteristic of Brachiosaurus was its long neck, which reached up to 12 metres (39 feet) in height. This was a huge advantage for this animal, which could access vegetation that other dinosaurs couldn’t reach. The neck was made of a combination of bone and muscle, and had a slight kink in it that helped the animal keep its head upright while eating. The animal also had nostrils on the top of its head, which may indicate it had a sense of smell. International Genetic Technologies, Inc. successfully cloned Brachiosaurus in 1986. Although it resembles the African Giraffatitan, the company named its specimen B. altithorax, but it is referred to as Brachiosaurus on the InGen IntraNet website and Jurassic-Pedia lists it as Brachiosaurus brancai after the African species was reclassified.
A member of the sauropod family, this four-legged plant-eater lived between 147 million and 137 million years ago during the Late Jurassic Period in North America. It is one of the largest dinosaurs ever to have existed, with fossil remains showing it could reach lengths of 69 to 90 feet (21 to 27.4 meters).
It ate a lot of plants every day to maintain such a large body size. The long neck enabled it to eat lower tree leaves, as well as ferns and soft pteridophytes such as horsetails or club mosses. These types of plants grow in wet areas, and Apatosaurus used its long neck to reach them. Like other large sauropods, this animal swallowed chunks of food without chewing it, and it may have had stones in its stomach to aid digestion.
Fossils of Apatosaurus have been found in Nine Mile Quarry and Bone Cabin Quarry in Colorado, as well as sites in Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. It was a slow moving animal that probably walked in herds, helping to deter predators by its sheer bulk.
Up until 1978, many people thought that this giant herbivore was a meat-eater. The reason for this mistake is that the fossils of this dinosaur show it had a snub-nosed head with peglike teeth, rather than the massive, curved teeth of a meat-eater. Fossils also reveal that it was a herbivore, which means it only ate plants.
When Argentinosaurus huinculensis was first discovered, paleontologists were thrilled. This massive sauropod measured about 100 feet long and weighed up to 100 tons, which makes it the biggest dinosaur known to have lived. This massive herbivore lived in a world where even bigger predators existed, so it’s amazing that it managed to survive as long as it did.
Not much fossil remains of Argentinosaurus have been found, but based on fragmentary bones, paleontologists can tell that this giant plant-eater was a true titan of the Jurassic period, roaming in South America from 96 to 94 million years ago. It belongs to the group of long-necked sauropods, and like other members of this family, it probably ate leaves from the upper branches of tall trees.
Unlike warm-blooded dinosaurs such as tyrannosaurs and raptors, it seems likely that Argentinosaurus walked slowly and gracefully and did not pursue fast prey. Its neck was so long that it would have been necessary for it to crouch down low when grabbing food from high treetops. This posture may have helped Argentinosaurus to avoid being targeted by powerful birds and carnivores, too. It would have taken a great deal of effort to crouch, too, since this position required a lot of energy and put immense pressure on its heart to pump blood up into the air. This huge animal likely gathered in herds to protect itself from large, slow-moving predators such as Giganotosaurus.
Stegosaurus was a tall, plated herbivore that lived in the Jurassic Morrison Formation. Its back was covered with long plates, a trait that earned it the name “dragon-lizard.”
The fossil evidence for stegosaurus’s lifestyle is very scanty, but we know it moved very slowly as it searched for food in arid fern savannahs and forests. It was probably a very large animal, and it might have lived alone or in small groups. If it was a group-living dinosaur, it might have had a matrilineal lineage, and the members of the same family would have been able to support one another during periods of drought.
Early palaeontologists, including Marsh himself, thought that the stegosaurus’s plates formed a protective dorsal shell. However, recent research has found that the plate structures were actually filled with blood vessels, and they were used as a display surface. They also served a defensive purpose by giving the stegosaurus an intimidating appearance. The plates probably made the stegosaurus look bigger, which might have helped it attract mates or scare off predators.
A stegosaurus’s teeth were small and peglike, and its jaw was not strong enough to crush meat. It may have fed on low-growing ferns, horsetails, and mosses at the lowest level of its habitat, or it might have reared up to eat the leaves and twigs of taller plants like cycads and conifers. The stegosaurus’s plates were also possibly used for display in courtship, much like the horns of male bovids.
The hadrosaurids (“bulky lizards”) are a family of advanced iguanodontian ornithopod dinosaurs that existed during the Late Cretaceous Period. These ponderously-built animals had keratinous beaks for cropping foliage and a large battery of teeth suited to efficiently chewing plant matter before swallowing it. They were the most successful herbivorous dinosaurs. The hadrosaurus genus is named for its ponderous nature, while the species name foulkii honors the philanthropist William Parker Foulke who donated funds for the excavation of the type specimen in the Woodbury Formation on Isla Sorna.
Like many large herbivores, hadrosaurs were social creatures. They lived in herds to fend off herd-sized predators and tended their young. Fossilized baby hadrosaurs have been found, as well as nests and other evidence of parental care. In addition, hadrosaurs have been seen using their long, thick tails for balance when running.
Hadrosaur coprolites have been found in the Kaiparowits Formation, with wooden contents suggesting that these herbivores had diets primarily of fibrous plants. Woody fecal masses have also been associated with lambeosaurine taxa (Parasaurolophus and Gryposaurus) and ceratopsids (an ankylosaurid, pachycephalosaurid and hypsilophodont). Although no direct evidence links specific species to these woody fecal remains, niche partitioning is likely.
Nodosaurus (no-duh-SOR-us) was a large, tank-like herbivore dinosaur. Its heavy bony armor protected it from carnivorous dinosaurs that may have preyed upon it.
This ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaur was 13 to 20 feet (4–6.1 meters) long and weighed 1 ton. Its armor was composed of thick plates that covered the entire body. These plates were connected by keels and had sharp spikes along the sides and rear. Nodosaurids did not have tail clubs, so they probably defended themselves by lowering to the ground and hiding behind their armor.
Paleontologists know a lot about Nodosaurus, because it is the type genus for the family Nodosauridae. This group of armored dinosaurs includes Edmontonia, Borealopelta, and Panoplosaurus.
These dinosaurs were similar to Stegosaurus, but had narrower snouts. They were more selective about the plants they ate and possibly fed higher up in trees than stegosaurs did.
Fossils of Nodosaurus have been found in North America, mainly in the Frontier Formation of Wyoming and Kansas. No skull has been recovered, but paleontologists have a good idea what this dinosaur looked like because of its better-known relatives.
A nearly complete Nodosaurus skeleton was discovered in 2011 in Alberta, Canada. It took miners six years to dig up this incredible fossil, which included the dinosaur’s skin. Nodosaurids lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, 110 million years ago. In Alabama, fossils of these plant-eaters have been found in the Black Belt counties of Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, and Montgomery. These animals coexisted with other types of herbivores and carnivores.