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Pinacosaurus (Wikimedia Commons)


Pinacosaurus (Greek for "plank lizard"); pronounced PIN-ack-oh-SORE-us


Woodlands of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 15 feet long and one ton



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long skull; clubbed tail


About Pinacosaurus:

Considering how many fossils have been discovered of this medium-sized, late Cretaceous ankylosaur, Pinacosaurus doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves--at least not compared to its more famous North American cousins, Ankylosaurus and Euoplocephalus. This central Asian armored dinosaur pretty much adhered to the basic ankylosaur body plan--blunt head, low-slung trunk, and clubbed tail--except for one odd anatomical detail, the as-yet-unexplained holes in its skull behind its nostrils.

The "type fossil" of Pinacosaurus was discovered in the 1920's, on one of the numerous expeditions to inner Mongolia sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Because so many remains have been found in such close proximity--including the bones of juveniles that were apparently huddling together at the time of their death--paleontologists speculate that Pinacosaurus may have roamed the central Asian plains in herds. This would have afforded some protection from predators, as would the fact that the only way a tyrannosaur or raptor could have killed this dinosaur was by flipping it over onto its armored back and digging into its soft belly.


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