We all know that dinosaurs were gigantic creatures that roamed the prehistoric earth. You might even think that they were carnivores, owing to their huge size and somewhat intimidating appearance.
There’s no denying that some species of dinosaurs were indeed carnivores, but they account for only 35%. Yes, the remaining 65% were herbivores!
Famous Plant-Eating Dinosaurs
Herbivorous animals are plant-eaters with a digestive system adapted to consuming plant material like foliage. Their mouths, especially teeth, are built to grind and graze the tough plant material. The herbivore dinosaurs also had cheek pouches to store food. Some of them ate rocks to grind the plant fibers in their stomach.
During the Mesozoic era, there were different plants and trees in various periods. Triassic was hotter and arid and had trees like pines and palms for the ancient beasts. In the Jurassic period, more humidity created an atmosphere for new types of trees. In the Cretaceous period, many areas became tropical or subtropical, and new varieties of trees, including the flowering ones like angiosperms, developed.
Overall, the different types of vegetation that the dinosaurs ate were cypresses, pines, conifers and yews, redwoods, ginkgo plants, ferns, angiosperms, and plants like cycads.
Now let’s get to know some of these herbivorous animals.
Brachiosaurs are from the saurischians sauropods group and last roamed this planet in the mid-Cretaceous period. They were huge and had long necks. If you’ve watched the film Jurassic Park, you must’ve seen these tall dinosaurs eating foliage from the trees. They also moved in small herds. According to researchers, it mainly consumed conifers, cycads, and ferns. It ate a lot and consumed about 1,500 kg of food a day!
Stegosauruses are said to have existed during the Jurassic period in Portugal and parts of North America. They had a beak, small teeth, and weak jaws that seemingly made them unable to consume animal flesh. They had spiked backs and tails, which enabled them to ward off the predatory attacks. Oddly enough, their brains were small in proportion to their body size. Their front legs were also smaller compared to their hind legs. It’s believed that they fed on plants less than 3 feet tall like club mosses, ferns, cycads, bushy conifers, and cycads.
Triceratops looked like rhinoceros, but they had three horns instead of one on their faces and frilly plates behind their skulsl. The term ‘triceratops’ literally means ‘head with three horns’ in Greek. These beings lived in North American land during the Cretaceous period. Their skulls were so huge that they were about one-third of their body size. Also, they had small tails, many cheek teeth, and strong jaws. Hence, these Ceratopsians likely ate low-lying shrubs and plants like cycads and ferns. They weren’t very fast walkers due to their short legs and were common prey of T-rex.
Diplodocus were long-necked Saurischian quadruped creatures that are considered to be among the largest animals to exist on earth. However, their heads were smaller compared to their bodies. According to researchers, they lived in the late-Jurassic period in the Rocky Mountains. You can easily spot these dinosaurs owing to their whip-shaped tails. They used their blunt teeth to strip foliage and mostly fed on conifers and ferns. They swallowed the plants whole without chewing them. Some researchers believe they swallowed the gastroliths stones to digest the unchewed plant material.
Ankylosauruses were huge quadruped Ornithischian dinosaurs with short necks, armored plates on their backs, large horns at the back of their heads, and club-like tails. They lived in the Late Cretaceous period. They usually fed on low-lying plant materials and swallowed big chunks of plants without ever chewing them.
Protoceratops were quadruped dinosaurs with a large body, a bulky frilled head, parrot-like beak, and cheek teeth. They were relatively slower due to their short legs. Protoceratops survived in the Late Cretaceous period in parts of Asia, such as China and Mongolia. Paleontological evidence suggests they lived in herds and ate cycads and other ancient plants with tough beaks.
Iguanodons were large herbivores that lived during the Early Cretaceous period and are named so because of their similarities with an iguana’s teeth. They were quadrupeds, and one of their prominent features was the sharp thumb spikes on their forelimbs. They used these spikes to defend themselves against the predators. These plant-eaters fed on cycads and other plants with their sharp-toothed beak.