An Ultimate Guide to Kentrosaurus: The Spiky Lizard

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Name Meaning“Spiky lizard or Sharp-pointed lizard”Height1.5 meters (5 feet)
PronunciationKen-troh-SAWR-usLength4–5 meters (13–16 feet)
EraMesozoicLate JurassicWeight700–1,600 kilograms (1,500–3,500 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Ornithischia & StegosauriaLocationTanzania, East Africa

Kentrosaurus Pictures

3D digital render of Kentrosaurus
3D digital render of Kentrosaurus | Vac1 via iStock

The Kentrosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Kentrosaurus Concept

Kentrosaurus is a genus of stegosaurian dinosaurs that lived in Tanzania, East Africa, during the Late Jurassic Period. 

A close relative of the popular Stegosaurus and one of the best-known members of the Stegosaur group, Kentorsaurus is known from hundreds of bones recovered by German Paleontologists between 1909 and 1912. 

The dinosaur’s name translates as “prickle lizard or spiky lizard.” The name is an obvious reference to the unique body armor of this dinosaur made up of spiky plates. 

Kentrosaurus 3D illustration
Kentrosaurus 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock

Although no single, complete skeleton of the Kentosaurus has been found, scientists have a nearly full picture of what this dinosaur might have looked like, thanks to hundreds of fossils found so far. 

This includes the remains of at least 70 individuals found together in a single bone bed.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the fascinating facts scientists have learned about this dinosaur so far. 

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

Physical Characteristics

Kentrosaurus was a close relative of the more famous Stegosaurus

Both dinosaurs had a similar appearance, but the Kentrosaurus was slightly smaller.

It was a medium-sized dinosaur with an average length of about four to five meters (13 to 16 feet). 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Kentrosaurus Size Comparison Chart
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Kentrosaurus Size Comparison Chart

This dinosaur stood at around 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall at the hips and weighed 700–1,600 kilograms (1,500–3,500 pounds). 

Like the Stegosaurus, Kentrosaurus had a robust, stocky body with a quadrupedal stance. 

It stood and walked on all fours and had a relatively small head compared to its body.

It also had a long, muscular tail that helped counterbalance its weight. 

Arguably the most prominent feature of Kentrosaurus was its spiky appearance, typical of all stegosaurs. 

This dinosaur had rows of large bony plates, called osteoderms, running along its back and neck. 

Fossil Kentrosaurus aethiopicus in Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
Fossil Kentrosaurus aethiopicus in Museum für Naturkunde Berlin | Sebastian Wallroth via License

The plates on its back were arranged in pairs and alternated in size, starting from the base of the neck and extending to the tip of the tail. 

They were mostly triangular, with pointed tips and rough surfaces. 

The function of these plates is not entirely understood, but they may have served as a form of protection or played a role in regulating body temperature.

In addition to the plates, Kentrosaurus possessed pairs of long, sharp spikes that extended from its shoulders and down the sides of its body. 

These spikes, known as dermal scutes or spines, were probably covered in keratin and served as defensive weapons against predators. 

The tail spikes were the longest, and scientists think they were used as an active defensive weapon that this dinosaur could swing at predators. 

Kentrosaurus mount at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin.
Kentrosaurus mount at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin | Etemenanki3 via License

Due to size differences observed in the thigh bones of the fossils discovered so far, scientists think this dinosaur may have exhibited sexual dimorphism. 

This means one sex of the Kentrosaurus was probably larger or more stout compared to the other. 

Kentrosaurus is often compared to its more famous relative, Stegosaurus

But while both dinosaurs show many similarities in terms of body shape and the presence of plates and spikes, there were some notable differences between them.

In addition to being smaller in size, the back plates of the Kentrosaurus were shorter, but the shoulder spikes were more pronounced. 

The arrangement of the plates and spikes also differed between the two species. 

While Stegosaurus had its plates oriented in two alternating rows of vertically-oriented spikes, the plates and spikes of the Kentrosaurus were positioned in pairs and angled slightly backward.

Habitat and Distribution

Kentrosaurus inhabited parts of what is now modern-day Africa during the Late Jurassic Period. 

Its fossil remains have been primarily found in Tanzania and neighboring regions of East Africa. 

Scientists think the geographic range of this dinosaur was limited to this region of Africa due to environmental preferences or barriers to migration.

During the time of Kentrosaurus’ existence, the East African climate and landscape were quite different from that of today. 

The continents were arranged as a single landmass known as Pangea, which was just starting to break off. 

The specific region where Kentrosaurus lived was closer to the equator, leading to a warm and humid tropical to subtropical climate.

Kentrosaurus at a waterhole
Kentrosaurus at a waterhole | MR1805 via iStock

Kentrosaurus lived in an area dominated by lush forests consisting of various types of vegetation.

The abundance of vegetation provided a suitable food source for herbivorous dinosaurs like Kentrosaurus.

Behavior and Diet

The hindlimbs of the Kentrosaurus were longer than its forelimbs, but scientists believe it stood and moved on all fours, meaning it was quadrupedal. 

While the hindlimbs supported most of this dinosaur’s weight, the equally robust forelimbs supported up to 15% of the body weight.

Stegosaurus had a stocky build and short limbs, which suggests that it was a slow-moving dinosaur. 

Kentrosaurus showing its impressive tail and armor
Kentrosaurus showing its impressive tail and armor | CoreyFord via iStock

Its heavy tail may have helped with support and balance during motion. 

It is also likely that the Kentosaurus was capable of rearing up its hind legs briefly to reach higher vegetation. 

When on all fours, Kentrosaurus could reach plants at heights of up to 1.7 meters (over 5 feet), and it could have fed heights of 3.3 meters (11 feet) when in a bipedal pose.

Kentrosaurus probably lived in small herds or groups. 

Scientists have discovered fossils of numerous individuals of different ages and sizes in the same fossil bed. 

This indicates that they probably lived and traveled in groups. 

Living in herds like this is typical in herbivorous animals; as such herd behavior provides protection against predators. 

A herd of Kentrosaurus herbivorous dinosaurs feed and rest
A herd of Kentrosaurus herbivorous dinosaurs feed and rest | CoryFord via iStock

The East African ecosystem where Kentrosaurus lived was dominated by lush forests consisting of various types of coniferous trees, ferns, cycads, and other plant species. 

Kentrosaurus fed on these plants, stripping leaves from plants with its broad, peg-like teeth or using its beak to snip off plant material.

Life Cycle

Kentrosaurus probably reproduced sexually, with individuals engaging in courtship behaviors and mating. 

Some experts believe that the plates on this dinosaur’s back were probably used for sexual display to attract mates.

3D rendering of a dinosaur Kentrosaurus isolated on white background
Their impressive spikes were likely used during courtship | Vac1 via iStock

The fact that they lived in herds may have also facilitated mating opportunities. 

Due to the position of their plates and spikes, Kentrosaurus pairs most likely mated back-to-back. 

Females probably bushed their hips and pelvis forward while the male maneuvered his penis into her cloaca. 

After mating, females would have laid eggs in nests, similar to other dinosaurs. 

Juvenile Kentrosaurus grew very rapidly after hatching. 

Despite being smaller than some of its relatives like Stegosaurus, bone histology studies show that Kentrosaurus grew faster than them. 

Illustration of an adult and a young Kentrosaurus
Illustration of an adult and a young Kentrosaurus | XiaImages via iStock

Kentrosaurus individuals underwent significant changes in their body proportions, developing large plates and spikes as they matured. 

They likely experienced a growth spurt during their early years, with the growth rate gradually slowing down as they reached their maximum size in adulthood. 

Evolution and History

Kentrosaurus belongs to the stegosaur family, a group of armored dinosaurs that lived during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods

The stegosaurs are part of the larger clade Thyreophora, also known as shield bearers.

3 thyreophorans Scelidosaurus, Edmontonia and Huayangosaurus
Three thyreophorans sketch of Scelidosaurus, Edmontonia, and Huayangosaurus | Subhumanfreak via License

This group of armored ornithischian dinosaurs, including ankylosaurs, are characterized by body armor made up of bony plates lined up in longitudinal rows along their body.

The ancestors of the Kentosaurus and other stegosaurs were basal thyreophorans, such as Scelidosaurus and Scutellosaurus

These early shield bearers were small bipedal dinosaurs with body armor made up of bony plates and spikes

Their plates were also smaller and more primitive compared to later forms.

These early forms eventually gave rise to the more specialized stegosaurs, which included Kentrosaurus

Within the Stegosaur family, Kentrosaurus is closely related to the Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus 3D Rendering.
Kentrosaurus’ close relative the Stegosaurus | Daniel Eskridge via iStock

Both dinosaurs share similar anatomical features, such as the presence of plates and spikes along their backs. 

However, Kentrosaurus exhibits several notable differences in its morphology compared to Stegosaurus.

Kentrosaurus had shorter plates and longer shoulder spikes compared to Stegosaurus. Its plates and spikes were also arranged differently. 

These variations in morphology suggest distinct adaptations that may have been caused by differences in their geographical locations or ecological roles.

Interactions With Other Species

Kentrosaurus, as a herbivorous dinosaur, would have faced predation pressure from carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in the same region of East Africa during the Late Jurassic.

This includes theropods like the Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Elaphrosaurus, and Veterupristisaurus. 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Allosaurus Concept
Kentrosaurus likely crossed paths with Allosaurus

The plates and spikes of the Kentosaurus gave the dinosaur a menacing appearance and probably helped to deter predators.

 These structures may have made it more challenging for predators to attack the Kentrosaurus from behind, acting as a form of passive defense.

But the Kentrosaurus’ main defense mechanism was the array of paired spikes on its tail known as thagomizers. 

Experts think the dinosaur was capable of swinging its long muscular tail at foes at speeds of up to 50 km/, inflicting significant damage on foes. 

Continued swings of these tail spikes could slash an attacker’s skin or even break ribs and bones. 

Small and medium-sized theropods would have been no match for the Kentrosarus’ tail spikes, but larger ones would have fared better. 

Kentrosaurus would have coexisted with other herbivores too. 

While there are no other stegosaurs from the region of Africa where this dinosaur was found, other ornithischians, such as Dysalotosaurus, were present. 

Dicraeosaurus and kentrosaurus dinosaur walking peacefully next to calamite trees by sunset - 3D render
Dicraeosaurus and Kentrosaurus walking peacefully next to calamite trees by sunset | Elenarts108 via iStock

The region was also home to sauropods like Giraffatitan, Dicraeosaurus, and Tendaguria. 

These herbivores would have competed against the Kentrosaurus for food and other resources. 

Cultural Significance

The fossil remains of Kentrosaurus have been an important paleontological discovery. 

The first fossils were unearthed in Tanzania in the early 20th century, and subsequent findings have yielded several valuable specimens. 

At least 1200 bones belonging to the Kentrosaurus were discovered within four field seasons, and these bones accounted for up to 70 individuals. 

‬Based on these fossils, scientists have assembled two composite skeletons, which provide a clear picture of what this dinosaur may have looked like. 

Unfortunately, many of these dinosaur bones were destroyed during the second world war. 

The distinct plates and spikes of Kentrosaurus are its most fascinating feature. 

A 3D Render Kentrosaurus Face
A 3D Render Kentrosaurus Face | CoryFord via iStock

Although Kentrosaurus itself isn’t commonly depicted in pop culture, Stegosaurus, a popular relative of the Kentrosaurus, appears quite often in books, documentaries, and other forms of media. 

Reference is often made to this dinosaur’s unique armored plates and tail spikes that give it such a menacing look. 


‬Kentrosaurus is the best-known member of the Stegosaur family, after Stegosaurus itself. 

The dinosaur is known from a massive collection of bones recovered from the ‬Tendaguru formation in Tanzania, East Africa.

Kentrosaurus lived about 155 to 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic Period. 

Kentrosaurus was a low-browsing herbivore that fed on a wide range of plant materials. 

It lived in a lush tropical forest where conifers, ferns, and cycads were quite abundant. 

This dinosaur faced off against carnivorous theropods like the Elaphrosaurus and Veterupristisaurus

The dorsal plates and tail spikes of this dinosaur would have provided some level of protection against these predator species.

Although no complete skeleton of the Kentrosaurus has been found so far, the abundance of fossil remains provides a fairly complete picture of what this dinosaur may have looked like and how it lived. 


What does the name “Kentrosaurus” mean?

The name “Kentrosaurus” is derived from Greek words: “kentron,” meaning “point” or “prickle,” and “sauros,” meaning “lizard.” 

It refers to the prominent spikes and plates that adorned this dinosaur’s body.

How did Kentrosaurus defend itself?

Kentrosaurus possessed rows of sharp, triangular spikes on its shoulders and long tail.

These defensive features likely served as a deterrent against predators, making it more challenging for them to attack or subdue Kentrosaurus

The tail spikes (also known as thagomizers) were particularly important.

The Kentrosaurus could swing them at predators to inflict significant damage. 

Where have Kentrosaurus fossils been found?

Fossil remains of Kentrosaurus have been primarily discovered in Tanzania and neighboring regions of East Africa. 

Scientists think the dinosaur’s range was restricted to this region of the continent. 

Did Kentrosaurus and Stegosaurus live together?

No. Although Kentrosaurus and Stegosaurus were closely related, these two dinosaurs did not live in the same location.

Kentrosaurus was native to East Africa, while Stegosaurus lived in North America.


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Jerry Young is a self-proclaimed prehistoric animal nerd. He has been fascinated with these ancient creatures for as long as he can remember, and his passion for them continues to this day. With his extensive knowledge and love for prehistoric animals, he is the perfect fit for Gage Beasley Prehistoric.

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