Camptosaurus – Fossils and Fun Facts

Full Color CamptosaurusCamptosaurus lived in the late Jurassic Period and early Cretaceous, about 145 to 155 million years ago. The first specimen of Camptosaurus was discovered in Wyoming by William Harlow Reed in 1879. Shortly after Reed’s discovery, the famous paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh discovered a second specimen. Marsh was responsible for naming the species. The name “Camptosaurus” means “flexible lizard”. All of the Camptosaurus specimens found thus far place the territory of the dinosaur in North America and Europe. However, in more recent discoveries, many “Camptosaurus” fossils found in Europe have been found to belong to different species. This leads scientists to believe that these dinosaurs were only limited to North America.


This dinosaur is estimated to have been about 25 feet long from snout to tip of tail. Despite the enormous length, however, the fully grown adult Camptosaurus probably would only stand about four feet high. Scientists estimate that they would have weighed around 2,200 pounds when fully grown. A few juvenile skeletons have been discovered, but most of the fossil discoveries of Camptosaurus thus far have been of adults.

Camptosaurus SkeletonCamptosaurus had large, powerful back legs and weaker, smaller front legs. Their front legs were still capable of bearing weight, however, leading to the conclusion that they were at least in part quadrupedal. Each other their feet had four toes. They had a mouth full of sharp teeth, as well as a hard, sharp beak. Their heads were fairly small, and they were triangular in shape and narrow. Early displays of Camptosaurus incorrectly showed the skull as having more of a rectangular shape, reminiscent of a tyrannosaur.


It is believed that Camptosaurus was a herbivore and dined largely on mosses, pine needles, ferns, fronds, horsetail plants, and gingko leaves. Scientists know that much of their diet consisted of rough vegetation that was difficult to chew based on the heavy wear on most dental specimens. This could have been their specialty: the ability to digest plants too tough for other herbivores to live off of. Like many herbivores, both dinosaur and modern, this dinosaur probably lived and traveled in a herd in order to ward off predators. Scientists believe that they could have reached a top running speed of 15 miles per hour, another asset when looking to evade carnivores. This lifestyle and defense mechanism is most similar to Iguanodon, a relative of Camptosaurus.

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