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A speculative drawing of Plateosaurus.

Plateosaurus, "flat lizard", was one of the first Sauropodomorphs, or prosauropods (sauropod ancestors) which lived 205 million years ago, during the Triassic period. Plateosaurus is one of the largest early herbivourus (plant-eating) dinosaurs ever discovered.

What was their body shape?[edit | edit source]


Tyrannosaurus Rex

A complete skeleton of Plateosaurus in Switzerland.

Plateosaurus reached 4.8 to 10 metres (16 to 33 ft) in length and ranged from 600 to 4,000 kilograms (1,300 to 8,800 lb) in weight. The arms of Plateosaurus were very short, even compared to most other "prosauropods".

What did they eat?[edit | edit source]

Plateosaurus skull from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada

Plateosaurus was a predominant herbivore, feeding on plants such as ferns and cycads. It would have been at the bottom of the food chain. It is known to have been fed on by other, but small, early dinosaurs, such as Herrerasaurus and Lilliensternus. Predator bite marks found on the bones of Plateosaurus that have healed show that Plateosaurus did survive being hunted down at least some of the time – and also that its predators sometimes died fighting Plateosaurus.

A Lilliensternus hunting an unnamed Pterosaur

One thing that Plateosaurus was not hunted down was people. People didn't appear on Earth until over 60 million years later, much too late for anyone ever to be afraid of failing to hunt down a Plateosaurus.

When did they live?[edit | edit source]

Plateosaurus lived about 205 million years ago, in the late Triassic Period. Plateosaurus was among the first of the big dinosaurs. Like all non-bird dinosaurs, Plateosaurus lived in the Mesozoic era.

What was their habitat?[edit | edit source]

Plateosaurus is believed to have lived in forests, near rivers, and in areas that were open and full of easy to reach food and areas that were clear of predators. Wet seasons would have been most favorable to it. Plateosaurus fossils have been found in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and possibly England.

A skeleton of an unknown Plateosaurus species from Italy
A Camelotia

How were they discovered?[edit | edit source]

The German fossil hunter Johann Friedrich Engelhardt discovered some back bones and leg bones in Germany in 1834 but they were not named until 1837. These fossils came from a poorly understood animal at the time, until, in 1910, hundreds of well preserved skeletons of Plateosaurus were discovered.

What do we need to learn?[edit | edit source]

  • The color of their skin. One thing we cannot tell from fossils is color!
  • Whether Plateosaurus was feathered, scaly, or both. Some of its cousins had feathers like birds, while others had scales, so it likely had both.
  • Whether Plateosaurus actually existed in England, or if the fossils were referable to Camelotia instead.
  • If Plateosaurus was actually strictly bipedal.