An Ultimate Guide to Lambeosaurus: Lambe’s Lizard

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Name Meaning“Lambe’s Lizard”Height15 feet (4.5 meters)
PronunciationLam-bee-oh-SAW-rusLength23 – 25 feet (7 – 7.7 meters)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight2 – 4 tons (4,000 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Ornithischia & OrnithopodaLocationCanada, USA (North America)

Lambeosaurus Pictures

Lambeosaurus | Elenarts108 via iStock

The Lambeosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Lambeosaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Lambeosaurus Concept

Lambeosaurus is a genus of large hadrosaurid dinosaurs that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous period about 75 million years ago.

Also known as “Lambe’s lizard,” this dinosaur is named after Canadian Paleontologist Lawrence Lambe, who discovered the first fossil in Canada in 1902. 

The most distinctive feature of this dinosaur is its hollow cranial crest which resembles a hatchet or ax.

The function of this crest has been a subject of scientific debate since the dinosaur’s discovery, with theories ranging from display to being used as a snorkel so the dinosaur could breathe underwater. 

A lot is known about the Lambeosaurus and hadrosaurs in general.

The fossil record has an abundance of well-preserved fossils, skin impressions, and even nesting sites, which provides a full picture of the lifestyle and ecology of these dinosaurs.

This article will focus on some of the most well-known facts about this dinosaur genus.

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Physical Characteristics

Lambeosaurus of the Cretaceous era
Lambeosaurus of the Cretaceous era | Warpaintcobra via iStock

Lambeosaurus was a relatively large hadrosaur.

Although size estimates tend to vary due to the large amounts of fossil remains found so far, the Lambeosaurus probably reached lengths of about 50 feet (15 meters) and was as tall as seven feet (2.1 meters) at the hip. 

Adults weighed between 2.5 and 3.3 metric tons.

They had long, stiff tails for balance.

Lambeosaurus was a hadrosaurid dinosaur.

Members of this group are also known as duck-billed dinosaurs, a reference to their flat duck-like snouts.

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

They had a high, dome-shaped head with a prominent hatchet-shaped crest that projected in front of their eyes.

The overall shape and structure of the crest varied in the two species in the genus.

Different theories have been proposed to explain the function of this dinosaur’s cranial crest.

However, because of the complex morphology of the crest (which varies from one species to the other), there’s no single theory that perfectly explains its function.

Some scientists suggest that it was used as a breathing tube, a sound-producing organ with resonating chambers, expanded olfactory organs to improve the dinosaur’s sense of smell, or even a salt gland. 

Like other hadrosaurids, the Lambeosaurus was quadrupedal but could also move on two hind legs.

Their hind legs were stronger and longer compared to their forelimbs.

They had three-toed hind limbs, while the fore-limbs had four fingers, three of which were modified to form hooves, while the last finger was free for manipulating objects. 

Lambeosaurus was a hadrosaur dinosaur that lived in North America in the Cretaceous Period
Lambeosaurus was a hadrosaur dinosaur that lived in North America in the Cretaceous Period | CoreyFord via iStock

In terms of size and general morphology, the Lambeosaurus is often compared to the Corythosaurus, another hadrosaurid dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous.

The major difference between both genera is in the position of their cranial crest, which is projected forward in the Lambeosaurus

Scientists have discovered several specimens of the same dinosaur species with preserved skin and scale impressions.

Evidence suggests that Lambe’s lizard had thin skin, which was probably not sufficient to protect the dinosaur from predators.

The skin formed uniform polygonal scutes on the neck, tail, and torso of the dinosaur. 

Habitat and Distribution

Lambe’s lizard lived in present-day North America during the Late Cretaceous period.

This was about 75 million years ago.

Lambeosaurus fossils have been discovered in various fossil sites in Canada and the upper Montana area of the USA.

However, some scientists think they may have had a broader range than this. 

The Dinosaur Park Formation is the most popular fossil site for the two species of dinosaurs in this genus (Lambeosaurus lambei and L. magnicristatus).

Paleoecological studies suggest this area was a low-relief setting characterized by rivers and floodplains. 

Lambeosaurus, searching for food on the coastlines and shallow seas.
Lambeosaurus, searching for food on the coastlines and shallow seas. | Warpaintcobra via iStock

The Lambe’s lizard range was near the coastlines of the Western Interior Sea, a shallow sea that covered most of North America during the Late Cretaceous.

The climate was warmer and wetter compared to present-day Alberta but still experienced occasional dry seasons.

Although a dominant terrestrial herbivore, the Lambeosaurus lacked any armor to defend itself.

Their teeth were only adapted for eating plants.

This means they would have had to rely on their good sense of smell and great eyesight to evade predators.

They were probably fast runners as well, and they may have spent considerable amounts of time in coastal lagoons and other aquatic areas to evade predators. 

Behavior and Diet

Lambeosaurus was a herbivorous Hadrosaur dinosaur that lived in North America during the Cretaceous Period | CoreyFord via iStock

Like other hadrosaurids, Lambeosaurus was a large bipedal/quadrupedal dinosaur.

The hindlimbs were longer and stronger, so they could walk and run on it.

However, they probably used all four limbs when grazing.

Lambe’s lizard could also run; its thick tail would have provided balance. 

Social functions such as recognition and noisemaking have been put forward as one of the main hypotheses to explain this dinosaur’s crest.

If this is right, it would suggest that the Lambeosaurus may have exhibited herd behavior, similar to many other hadrosaurid dinosaurs. 

The dinosaur likely lived in large groups, providing protection against predators, facilitating breeding, and enhancing foraging efficiency.

Artwork of a lambeosaurus dinosaur
Artwork of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur | Mark Garlick via GettyImages

During the breeding season, Lambeosaurus probably engaged in courtship displays, which may have involved visual and auditory signals.

The cranial crest (which differed in shape and size between species) could have played a role in these displays.

It probably served the purpose of attracting mates or establishing dominance within the group.

Lambeosaurus was a herbivorous dinosaur. Its habitat had an abundance of conifers as the dominant canopy plants.

The understory also included ferns, tree ferns, and angiosperms. 

Hadrosaurs like the Lambeosaurus had flattened beaks for cropping plant materials.

Their jaws also had a cheek-like organ for holding food while chewing.

Artwork of the crested head of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur
Artwork of the crested head of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur | Mark Garlick via GettyImages

The bipedal nature of this dinosaur would have made it possible to access plants as high as 13 feet (four meters) above the ground. 

The dinosaur’s mouth had several small, leaf-shaped teeth.

Scientists think they may have had as many as 1600 teeth in their mouth, wedged to form a tight dental battery.

This arrangement allowed the Lambeosaurus to grind tough plant materials effectively.

The Lambe’s lizard beaks were slightly narrower compared to other hadrosaurines.

This would suggest that this dinosaur had a more selective diet compared to their broad-beaked relatives. 

Life Cycle

Life restoration of Lambeosaurus
Life restoration of Lambeosaurus | Dinosaurs20 via DinopediaFandom

Like other dinosaurs, Lambeosaurus reproduced sexually.

If the theory about the use of their crest is right, males may have engaged in elaborate courtship displays using their larger cranial crest.

It may have also been a way to establish dominance. 

Although no definitive nests have been found, the nesting behavior of other closely related dinosaurs suggests that Lambeosaurus may have laid eggs in large communal nests.

They probably provided some level of parental care to their young as well. 

Extrapolating from the growth patterns of related dinosaurs suggests that Lambeosaurus hatchlings would have been relatively small and vulnerable, requiring parental care.

Lambeosaurus: The iconic 'duck-billed' dinosaur that once roamed ancient lands
Lambeosaurus: The iconic ‘duck-billed’ dinosaur that once roamed ancient lands | Cougarcat via PrehistoricLifeFandom

As they grew, Lambeosaurus juveniles experienced rapid growth rates, similar to other large herbivorous dinosaurs

The life cycle of the Lambe’s lizard is comparable to that of other hadrosaurid dinosaurs.

Many of them, such as the closely related Corythosaurus and Maiasaura, exhibit similar reproductive and nesting behaviors.

This includes communal nesting and some level of parental care.

Their growth pattern is also consistent with that of other large herbivorous dinosaurs.

These dinosaurs also experienced rapid growth during their juvenile stage and had relatively long lifespans.

Evolution and History

Lambeosaurus in Jurassic World Evolution.
Another variant of Lambeosaurus in Jurassic World Evolution | Image via ModDB

Lambeosaurus belongs to the family Hadrosauridae, which is a diverse group of herbivorous dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs in this group are also known as duck-billed dinosaurs because of their unique flattened beak-like mouths.

Members of this group were quite abundant during the Late Cretaceous, with numerous species found across North America, Asia, and Europe. 

The evolutionary history of Lambeosaurus and other hadrosaurids spans millions of years.

The group first appeared during the Late Jurassic period.

They soon diversified and thrived throughout the Cretaceous period. 

Fossil evidence suggests that hadrosaurids occupied a wide range of ecological niches and habitats, including forests, swamps, and floodplains.

Skeleton of Lambeosaurus
Skeleton of Lambeosaurus | Kevin Schafer via GettyImages

They are found in various body sizes and have different cranial ornamentation and dental adaptations.

Their diverse appearance shows that members of this group were adapted to different environmental conditions and had different dietary preferences.

Lambeosaurus is a member of the subfamily Lambeosaurinae.

Members of this subfamily are characterized by elaborate head structures (cranial crests).

These crests likely may have served communication and species recognition purposes.

Scientists also think they may have evolved the crest as a means of vocalization.

Other general within the lambeosaurine group include Corythosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, and Parasaurolophus

Interactions With Other Species

Lambosaurus escaping the commotion
Lambosaurus escaping the commotion | Sergey Krasovskiy via GettyImages

Lambeosaurus was a herbivore with very limited defensive mechanisms.

Consequently, it would have faced predation from various large carnivorous dinosaurs like the Daspletosaurus and Gorgosaurus, also found in the same region. 

As a large herbivore with no significant body armor, Lambeosaurus would have been a desirable target for these predators.

To cope with predation, Lambeosaurus probably herded together as a defensive tactic.

They may have also relied on their size and speed to escape predators. 

Within its ecological niche, Lambeosaurus may have competed for resources such as food, water, and nesting sites with other herbivorous dinosaurs.

A herd of Lambeosaurus dinosaurs becomes alarmed when a predatory Albertasaurus makes an appearance in their territory
A herd of Lambeosaurus dinosaurs becomes alarmed when a predatory Albertasaurus makes an appearance in their territory | CoreyFord via iStock

The most notable fossil site of this dinosaur, Dinosaur Park Formation, had a diverse collection of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals that lived alongside each other.

Some of the other popular dinosaurs in this region include the horned Centrosaurus, Chasmosaurus, and Styracosaurus.

The Lambeosaurus also lived alongside other hadrosaurids, such as Prosaurolophus, Corythosaurus, and Gryposaurus.

Scientists believe different species of hadrosaurid dinosaurs occupied distinct ecological niches and had specialized dietary preferences.

This specialization may have minimized competition between the different species. 

However, there likely would still be some level of competition, especially during periods of environmental stress or in areas where resources were in more limited supply. 

Cultural Significance

Artwork of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur in black background
Artwork of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur in black background | Mark Garlick via GettyImages

Lambeosaurus is one of the dinosaurs that is frequently depicted in various dinosaur literature, scientific illustrations, kid toys, and books.

This dinosaur, with its distinctive cranial crest, is an iconic representative of the entire Hadrosaurid family, both to researchers and the general public. 

Lambeosaurus and its relatives have also played a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge of dinosaur biology, behavior, and evolution.

Fossil discoveries and ongoing research on Lambeosaurus have provided valuable insights into the anatomy, growth patterns, social behavior, and paleoecology of hadrosaurid dinosaurs. 

Studying ancient dinosaurs with abundant fossil representation from the Late Cretaceous also helps scientists reconstruct the ancient ecosystems and understand the biodiversity of the period.

While Lambeosaurus itself might not have been featured in movies and other pop culture references, Hadrosaurid dinosaurs have been portrayed in movies like the Jurassic Park franchise.

Lambeosaurus in Jurassic World Evolution
Lambeosaurus in Jurassic World Evolution | Image via ModDB

Various movie scenes depicting these duck-billed dinosaurs have helped to popularize the image of these crest-bearing dinosaurs. 

The scientific documentary TV series “Walking with Dinosaurs” and many of its subsequent spin-offs also depicted various dinosaurs, including Lambeosaurus and other hadrosaurids.


Lambe’s lizard was a large hadrosaurid dinosaur that lived approximately 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

It was first discovered in 1903 in Alberta, Canada.

Several fossils of this genus have been found across various other locations in North America.

This dinosaur’s most prominent feature is its cranial crest which has been a subject of scientific debate since its discovery. 

Lambeosaurus was a herbivore that fed on conifers and ferns within its swampy habitat.

Its duck-billed mouth and tightly packed teeth were adapted to feeding on a wide range of tough plants.

This dinosaur is thought to have lived in herds which would have helped protect it from predators.  

Paleontologists have extensively debated the function of the Lambeosaurus’ cranial crest.

Most popular suggestions vary from courtship display to species recognition.

Other sophisticated uses, such as vocalization, olfactory function, and snorkeling, have been suggested as well. 

Scientists have more information about hadrosaurid dinosaurs than any other group.

While there are still many unanswered questions, our knowledge of the unique physical features and habits of Lambeosaurus contributes significantly to what we currently know about hadrosaurs and other dinosaur groups. 


When did the Lambeosaurus live?

Lambeosaurus lived during the Late Cretaceous period.

The dinosaur was alive approximately 76 to 75 million years ago.

How big was the Lambeosaurus

Lambeosaurus was a large dinosaur, reaching lengths of around 23 to 25 ft (7 – 7.7 meters) and standing up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall at the hips.

It weighed an estimated two to four tons.

What did the Lambeosaurus eat?

Lambeosaurus was an herbivorous dinosaur which means it fed primarily on plants.

It had a diverse diet which included a variety of vegetation such as ferns, conifers, and flowering plants.

What was the purpose of Lambeosaurus’ crest?

The function of the crest on the Lambeosaurus is still debated among scientists.

It could have served various purposes, such as species recognition, visual display during courtship, vocal resonation for communication, or temperature regulation.


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