An Ultimate Guide to Nigersaurus: The Dinosaur With 500 Teeth

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 18th December 2023

Name MeaningLizard from NigerHeight2–3 meters (6.5–10 feet)
PronunciationNy-jer-sore-usLength9–12 meters (30–40 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight1.9–4 metric tons (4,200 – 8,800 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & SauropodaLocationNiger (Africa)

Nigersaurus Pictures

Nigersaurus | CoreyFord via iStock

The Nigersaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Nigersaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Nigersaurus Concept

Nigersaurus is a genus of sauropod dinosaur that roamed the plains of Africa during the Late Cretaceous Period, between 110 and 105 million years ago. 

It was first discovered in 1975 by paleontologist Philippe Taquet but was not officially named until 1999. 

The genus name is a reference to Niger in West Africa, where fossils of this dinosaur were first discovered. 

The region where this dinosaur lived is now in the present-day Sahara Desert. 

Nigersaurus has a unique look unlike any other dinosaur ever discovered. 

Nigersaurus 3D illustration
Nigersaurus 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock

Commonly referred to as the “dinosaur with 500 teeth,” Nigersaurus is famous for its unique dentition and feeding adaptations.

Not a lot is known about this dinosaur because of the poor state of preservation of the available fossils. 

However, we do have some very interesting information about this bizarre-looking dinosaur. 

This article will detail some of the fascinating details about this dinosaur’s appearance, how it lived, and its significance to scientific research. 

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

Nigersaurus was an elephant-sized dinosaur that measured about nine meters (29 feet) in length. 

Estimates suggest that it weighed between 1.9 and four tons and was up to 2.4 meters (7.87 feet) tall at the hip. 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Nigersaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Nigersaurus Concept

Although these size estimates show that Nigersaurus was a relatively big dinosaur, it was small by sauropod standards. 

Sauropods are among the largest animals to have ever walked the planet. 

In fact, Diplodocus, a close relative of the Nigersaurus, is one of the longest dinosaurs ever found. 

In comparison, Nigersaurus had a relatively short body.  

The most distinctive feature of the Nigersaurus was its long and narrow skull. 

Skull cast, Royal Ontario Museum
Skull cast of Nigersaurus at Royal Ontario Museum | CaptMondo via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Nigersaurus had a delicate skull with a lot of openings (fenestrae).

It had a deep, wide mouth with a distinct rectangular shape when viewed from the front. 

The dinosaur’s jaws were equipped with a broad, scoop-like snout that may have been useful for gathering plant material close to the ground with ease.

The mouth of the Nigersaurus was packed with a unique dental battery.

Although this type of dentition is commonly seen in other herbivorous dinosaurs, such as hadrosaurs and ceratopsians, the Nigersaurus’ dental battery was different because it consisted of more than 500 teeth arranged in tightly-packed rows. 

The teeth were also arranged at the front of the dinosaur’s mouth just along the muzzle’s outer edge. 

Nigersaurus is the only tetrapod animal known to have had jaws shaped this way. 

Model of Nigersaurus taqueti at the Australian Museum, Sydney
Model of Nigersaurus taqueti at the Australian Museum, Sydney | Dinoguy2 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The dinosaur’s jaws were wider than its skull, and the teeth extended laterally across the front of its mouth. 

The rest of this dinosaur’s body follows a typical sauropod body plan. 

It had a robust body but was generally lightweight due to a phenomenon known as Pneumatization (air-filled bones). 

The dinosaur walked on four columnar legs, with the front legs slightly shorter than the hindlegs.  

Habitat and Distribution

Nigersaurus inhabited the region of present-day Niger in West Africa. 

Although the fossils of this dinosaur have only been found in Niger, scientists think the dinosaur’s range may have included Morocco and Algeria as well. 

During the Late Cretaceous, Africa was part of the supercontinent Gondwana. 

Fossils of this dinosaur were found in an area called Gadoufaoua which is a part of the Elrhraz Formation located in the Sahara Desert. 

Although the region is now hot and dry, the Sahara region used to be a lush landscape characterized by extensive river channels and floodplains. 

Nigersaurus lived in areas close to these wetland environments where the low-lying vegetation it was adapted to feed on was plentiful. 

Nigersaurus grazing near the wetlands
Nigersaurus grazing near the wetlands | Steamblust via JWEFandom

The global climate during the Late Cretaceous Period was generally warm and humid. It was characterized by elevated temperatures. 

The region where this dinosaur lived enjoyed a stable climate with minimal seasonal variations. 

Behavior and Diet

Like other sauropods, Nigersaurus was a quadrupedal dinosaur that walked on all four robust legs. 

The front legs of this dinosaur were about two-thirds the length of the hind limbs meaning its posture was slightly inclined forward. 

The relatively short limbs of the Nigersaurus suggest that it probably moved with a slow, deliberate gait. 

Nigersaurus was a herbivore.

It is commonly referred to as the “cow of the Mesozoic” because it grazed on low-lying plants with its head close to the ground while maintaining a stable posture.

Nigersaurus head
Nigersaurus head | CoreyFord via iStock

The Nigersaurus’ unique dentition suggests that it had a specialized diet.

Its dental battery, which consists of hundreds of tightly-packed, leaf-shaped teeth, was well-suited for cropping and slicing vegetation.

One of the interesting facts about the Nigersaurus’ dentition is that the teeth were replaced at a very rapid rate. 

New teeth developed every 14 days, meaning the dinosaur’s mouth was always filled with both old and new teeth. 

Nigersaurus fed on soft plants like ferns, cycads, and conifers that were abundant in its ecosystem. 

Nigersaurus’ wide, shovel-like snout would have been useful for swapping these plants into its mouth as it grazed on them. 

Due to limited fossil evidence related to interactions between individuals in this genus, the social behavior of Nigersaurus is not well understood.

Based on the behavior of the sauropods and other plant-eating dinosaurs, it is likely that Nigersaurus lived in small groups or herds. 

Life Cycle

Life restoration of Nigersaurus
Life restoration of Nigersaurus | Nobu Tamura via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

Nigersaurus, like other sauropods, reproduced sexually. 

Females likely laid eggs on the ground, which were probably covered by vegetation and incubated until they hatched. 

However, the exact nesting habits of this dinosaur species are not known. 

It is also uncertain if they exhibited parental care for eggs and hatchlings or simply laid their eggs in suitable locations and abandoned their offspring to develop independently. 

Hatchlings of long-necked dinosaurs tend to look considerably different from their adult forms, but as they grow, the proportions of their body parts would start to change. 

Some body parts, such as their necks and tails, grew faster than the rest of their body. 

This is known as an allometric growth pattern (as against an isometric growth pattern where all the parts grow at the same rate). 

Juveniles grew rapidly during their early years until they reached maturity and probably continued to grow throughout their lifecycle. 

Nigersaurus and other sauropods probably had a long lifespan, similar to most herbivores today. 

Evolution and History

Nigersaurus taqueti, Early Cretaceous of Nige
Nigersaurus taqueti, Early Cretaceous of Niger | Nobumichi Tamura via GettyImages

Nigersaurus belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropodomorphs. 

The oldest known members of this group evolved during the Early Jurassic and were quite successful during the Cretaceous Period. 

Within the sauropod group, Nigersaurus is classified within the family Rebbachisauridae. 

Its closest known relatives include other rebbachisaurids such as Limaysaurus and Rebbachisaurus.

Nigersaurus is closely related to the diplodocids, a group that includes long-necked dinosaurs like the Supersaurus, Diplodocus, and Apatosaurus. 

These were among the longest animals to have ever lived. 

Scientists believe short-necked sauropods like the Nigersaurus evolved earlier, and the long neck seen in later form was an adaptation they developed later on in their evolution. 

The unique morphological adaptation shown by the Nigersaurus that distinguishes it from other dinosaurs is its distinctive long, narrow skull and unique dental battery containing hundreds of closely packed, leaf-shaped teeth. 

Nigersaurus Dental Battery
Nigersaurus Dental Battery | BILL O’LEARY via GettyImages

Experts think this adaptation allowed the Nigersaurus to crop vegetation close to the ground more effectively compared to other sauropodomorphs. 

Another unique adaptation shown by this dinosaur was the pneumaticity of its skeleton (they were filled with air sacs which makes them thin and lightweight). 

This adaptation was developed progressively as the Rebbachisauridae dinosaurs evolved. 

Experts think the pneumaticity of the Nigersaurus’ skeleton was an adaptation to lower bone density to reduce the amount of energy needed to move the body and how much heat the body generated. 

The region occupied by this dinosaur during the Cretaceous had a warm tropical climate. 

The pneumaticity may have helped them cope better with the high temperature in their habitat. 

Interactions With Other Species

Nigersaurus herd in the wetlands
Nigersaurus herd in the wetlands | Steamblust via JWEFandom

Nigersaurus was a defenseless herbivore, meaning it was a potential prey for various large carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in the same ecosystem.

Some of the dominant predator species that lived in that region of Africa include Spinosaurus, Suchomimus, and Carcharodontosaurus

These carnivorous dinosaurs would have posed a threat to Nigersaurus, particularly to juveniles or weak individuals. 

Adult Nigersaurus didn’t were slow animals, and they did not have any notable defenses against predators. 

However, they likely used their long tail like a sort of whip to deter predators. 

Although Nigersaurus is the most notable sauropod dinosaur known from West Africa, it coexisted with other groups of herbivorous dinosaurs that potentially competed for the same resources. 

West Africa circa 115 million years ago, featuring Nigersaurus dinosaurs co-existing with other dinosaur species for food
West Africa circa 115 million years ago, featuring Nigersaurus dinosaurs co-existing with other dinosaur species for food | Arthur Dorety via GettyImages

This includes hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs), ankylosaurs, or ornithopods. 

The iguanodontian Lurdusaurus was the most numerous herbivore in the part of Africa where this dinosaur was found. 

Other herbivores that may have lived alongside the Nigersaurus include Ouranosaurus and Elrhazosaurus

While the Nigersaurus had a unique feeding strategy that focused on low-lying plants, it likely still had to compete with these herbivores for food and other resources within the ecosystem.

Cultural Significance

Once home to a thriving ecosystem where dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals lived, Niger, the country where the Nigersaurus lived, is one of the most important paleontological sites in Africa. 

Nigersaurus reconstructed skeleton
Nigersaurus reconstructed skeleton | Kabacchi via Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

The discovery of the Nigersaurus as one of the largest dinosaurs from that region has further contributed to the recognition of the country as an important paleontological site and led to increased scientific exploration efforts in the region.

Although not a popular dinosaur to the general public, Nigersaurus has gained recognition for its bizarre looks and unique adaptations. 

The Nigersaurus’ 500-teeth battery is one of its most popular attributes and a common talking point when discussing this dinosaur. 

NIgersaurus is also well-known to scientific researchers

The dinosaur’s skull was one of the first to be reconstructed digitally. 

Front view of reconstructed skull of Nigersaurus
Front view of reconstructed skull of Nigersaurus | Tomoaki INABA via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists trying to better understand the unique dentition and skull structure of this dinosaur reconstructed its head using CT scans. 

The knowledge gained from studying this dinosaur’s skull has contributed to our understanding of dinosaur anatomy, particularly in terms of feeding adaptations. 


Nigersaurus was a medium-sized bipedal dinosaur that lived during the middle to Late Cretaceous Period. 

It was first discovered in Africa in 1975, and the dinosaur’s name is a reference to the Republic of Niger, where the first fossil was discovered. 

Nigersaurus is popular for the unique shape of its skull and its impressive dental battery characterized by up to 500 teeth.

Nigersaurus was a herbivore sauropod. Although smaller compared to some of its relatives, it reached lengths of up to nine feet (29 meters). 

Scientists think it was a non-selective herbivore that grazed on plants on the ground. 

Due to its unique appearance and impressive dentition, Nigersaurus has been extensively studied by paleontologists looking to understand the dinosaur’s evolution and adaptations better. 

This dinosaur lived in Africa during a time of geologic history when the climate and ecosystem of the region were considerably different from its current form. 

Studying fossil remains of the Nigersaurus and other dinosaurs from that period provides some insights into how the ecosystem has changed over time and what it looked like 100 million years ago. 


How many fossils of Nigersaurus have been found?

Since its discovery in the late 1990s, only a few Nigersaurus fossils have been unearthed. 

These include partial skeletons, including several well-preserved skull specimens, providing valuable insights into its anatomy and adaptations. 

Based on these fragmentary remains, scientists have been able to reconstruct up to 80% of this dinosaur’s body. 

Did Nigersaurus have any predators?

As a herbivorous dinosaur, Nigersaurus would have been susceptible to predation by large theropod dinosaurs that lived alongside it. 

Predators such as the spinosaurid Suchomimus and Carcharodontosaurus could have posed a threat to Nigersaurus

Is the dinosaur with 500 teeth real? 

Yes. Nigersaurus is a famous dinosaur with 500 teeth.

It lived in West Africa during the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 110 million years ago. 


About The Author

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Gage Beasley Prehistoric | Recapping Timeless Creatures

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top