Ankylosaurus Armor

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Ankylosaurus Armor

Ankylosaurus was an armored dinosaur, and it is the armor that makes it instantly recognizable.

Ankylosaurus's armor was composed of bony plates (known as "osteoderms" or "e;scutes") embedded within the animal's skin. The osteoderms varied both in terms of shape (although mostly generally flat) and in size. The smallest osteoderms were around 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) across, and largest perhaps 14 inches (35 centimeters) across.

Ankylosaurus osteoderms:
Ankylosaurus Osteoderms

It is not known exactly how the osteoderms were placed on the animal in life, although many inferences can be made by attempting to reconstruct the animal and seeing where the pieces fit, and from comparison with related animals. Even so, it is not certain for example whether some of the smaller osteoderms were placed on the upper side of the animal's tail or the upper limbs.

The osteoderms in Ankylosaurus were relatively thin, but seem to have been strengthened by areas of collagen fibers. The combination of osteoderms and collagen fibers is probably provided the animal with armor which was both lightweight and flexible. Additionally, it is possibly that the armor also served a role in temperature regulation ("thermoregulation").

Ankylosaurus is also known to have had a tail club. This was composed from two large osteoderms with smaller osteoderms along the midline and at the tip of the club. Additionally, the last seven vertebrae served as the "handle" of the club - these vertebrae had no cartilage between them and were sometimes joined. Only one fossil Ankylosaurus has been found with the tail club, so the range of variation is not known - but close relatives of Ankylosaurus did seem to have variable tail shapes.

It is not entirely certain how Ankylosaurus used its tail club. While it is certainly true that swining larger tail clubs would have been capable of breaking bones, it is not clear whether Ankylosaurus used its club to fight off predators, in intraspecies combat with other Ankylosauruses (competing for for mates or territory for example), or perhaps both. Another possibility is that the club may sometimes have been used as a decoy for the head when the animal was attacked by predators.

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