An Ultimate Guide to Tsintaosaurus: Lizard of Tsingtao

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 23rd September 2023

Name MeaningLizard from TsingtaoHeight2.8 meters (9.2 feet)
PronunciationSin-tow-sore-usLength8.3 meters (27.2 feet)
EraCampanian -Maastrichtian – CretaceousWeight2.5 metric tons (2.75 short tons)
ClassificationDinosauria, Ornithischia & OrnithopodaLocation China

Tsintaosaurus Pictures

A Tsintaosaurus within a white background
A Tsintaosaurus within a white background | Steveoc 86 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The Tsintaosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Tsintaosaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Tsintaosaurus Concept

The lizard of Tsingtao, or scientifically Tsintaosaurus, was a prehistoric inhabitant of modern China, having roamed the Earth 83.6-70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous.

Tsintaosaurus was a hadrosaurid dinosaur with a beak and a distinctive crest. 

Like other hadrosaurs, it could walk quadrupedally and bipedally and feed on vegetation. 

In addition to the beak, which helped crop foliage, Tsintaosaurus had quite strong teeth that facilitated chewing.

The crest, on the other hand, may have been used to emit sounds, for sexual display, or species identification.

This Late Cretaceous dinosaur was discovered in 1950 in Shandong, China.

A 3D image of the Tsintaosaurus
A 3D image of the Tsintaosaurus | Steamblust via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

The fossils were attributed to Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus in 1958.

The generic name comes from Qingdao, a city in Shandong Province, while the specific name comes from the Latin word spina and the Greek word rhis

This combination translates as “wish a nose spine” and refers to the crest.

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

Tsintaosaurus was a lambeosaurine hadrosaurid dinosaur.

It measured approximately 8.3 meters (27.2 feet) long.

Pararhabdodon, a close relative of Tsintaosaurus was much smaller, reaching only 6 meters (19.7 feet) long.

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Tsintaosaurus Size Comparison Chart

Other members of Lambeosaurinae, however, had roughly the same size.

Amurosaurus, for example, reached 8 meters (26 feet) in length, while Lambeosaurus was 7-7.5 meters (23-24.6 feet) long.

One exception is Nipponosaurus, which reached only 4 meters (13 feet) in length.

In short, Tsintaosuarus was among the longest of its kind.

Its weight was estimated at 2.5 metric tons (2.75 short tons), and its height at almost 3 meters (9.8 feet) at the hips.

Tsintaosaurus was typically a quadrupedal dinosaur but could occasionally stand and walk bipedally. 

As such, its hind legs were strong enough to support the body’s weight without forelimb help.

The most striking feature of Tsintaosaurus is its elaborate cranial crest and distinctive beak
The most striking feature of Tsintaosaurus is its elaborate cranial crest and distinctive beak | Cyrannian via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

The torso was quite bulky and wide, and the neck was somewhat elongated, possibly forming a curve.

Tsintaosaurus also had a distinctive beak, which helped it crop foliage, and powerful teeth that further helped chew vegetation.

The most distinctive characteristic of Tsintaosaurus was its unicorn-like crest, which probably measured approximately 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) long.

It grew from the top rear of the snout.

Scientists argued that the tubular hollowing observed in the holotype may have functioned as a breathing canal. 

A model of the crest anatomy of Tsintaosaurus
A model of the crest anatomy of Tsintaosaurus | Tylwyth Eldar via Wikimedia Commons CC A-SA 4.0

Supposedly, Tsintaosaurus relied on it for air intake.

However, this theory was subsequently disapproved of.

Some sources mention that the crest may have looked similar to an Orlotitan crest.

Habitat and Distribution

Fossils associated with the Tsintaosaurus genus were discovered in eastern China, in Laiyang, Shandong. 

More precisely, they were recovered from the Jingangkou Formation, part of the Wangshi Group. 

Therefore, we can assume that Tsintaosaurus’ range was restricted to this area.

Some sources list that the territory was probably fluvial to the lacustrine environment and featured a warm and humid climate.

On the other hand, studies on Cretaceous terrestrial deposits in China show that, during the Campanian-Maastrichtian age, all Chinese basins featured an arid and semi-arid climate, and fluvial and shallow lacustrine deposition occurred under these climatic conditions.

It is believed that plants like Metasequoia were abundant in China during the Late Cretaceous.

Some sources also mention that Tsintaosaurus was more common close to water sources.

Behavior and Diet

When hadrosaurs were first discovered, they were regarded as amphibious, semi-aquatic creatures that fed on soft water plants.

This theory is supported by the presence of soft tissue thought to have formed webbed fingers. 

Additionally, hadrosaurs had a flattened tail, which may have served for propulsion through the water.

A depiction of this hadrosaurid dinosaur derived from the skeletal remains showcased at the Beijing Natural History Museum
A depiction of this hadrosaurid dinosaur derived from the skeletal remains showcased at the Beijing Natural History Museum | Arthur Weasley via Wikimedia Commons CC A 2.5

This theory survived for over a hundred years until it was disapproved of. 

Specialists concluded that the soft tissue helped hadrosaurs on dry land, while the tails were likely too stiff for propulsion.

So if you ever see a Tsintaosaurus portrayed as an aquatic animal and an excellent swimmer, you know where this belief comes from.

The truth is, it was most likely fully terrestrial.

As mentioned, Tsintaosaurus was primarily quadrupedal.

However, if needed, it could walk and run on two legs, especially if chased by predators.

When feeding, however, it probably stood on four legs.

A Tsintaosaurus in a bipedal stance, supported by its hind legs
A Tsintaosaurus in a bipedal stance, supported by its hind legs | Sillyghostfreak99 via Dinopedia Fandom

The Tsintaosaurus was herbivorous and used its beak to crop plants. 

Even though it could stand bipedally and feed on plants up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) tall, scientists argue that it probably chose to feed on low-growing plants up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) tall.

Hadrosaur fossilized droppings showed that some of them ate rotting wood, which contained fungi, and detritus-eating invertebrates, which were highly nutritious.

Additionally, some hadrosaur coprolites (fossilized droppings) showed that these dinosaurs also fed on shellfish, like crustaceans. 

Did Tsintaosaurus eat rotten wood and crustaceans, too?

This remains a mystery!

Studies on hadrosaur scleral rings show that they may have been cathemeral. 

A lone Tsintaosaurus searching for food
A lone Tsintaosaurus searching for food | Cyrannian via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

This means they were active only for short intervals throughout the day. 

Based on this, we can assume Tsintaosaurus was also cathemeral. 

It has also been suggested that Tsintaosaurus was quite social and lived and moved in herds.

Another fascinating aspect of this dinosaur’s behavior can be associated with its crest. 

Did you know that some scientists suspect that the crest was used to make noises? 

Additionally, members of the same species may have relied on their crests to distinguish each other!

Life Cycle

An exhibit in the Paleozoological Museum of China presents a mounted Tsintaosaurus specimen featuring a crest reconstruction
An exhibit in the Paleozoological Museum of China presents a mounted Tsintaosaurus specimen featuring a crest reconstruction | Captmondo via Wikipedia Copyrighted free use

Luckily, hadrosaur reproduction and life cycle are relatively well-known; that is if we compare this information with what is known about other dinosaurs’ reproductive behavior.

First things first, we must mention that Tsintaosaurus, like all dinosaurs, reproduced by laying eggs. 

The nesting location probably depended on each individual’s behavior and diet, as well as on soil conditions and whether there was competition or predators in the vicinity.

It remains unknown whether hadrosaurs incubated their eggs, and if they did, was it the male or the female who was responsible for the incubation?

Baby hadrosaurs looked similar to their parents.

However, it is believed that juveniles walked primarily on two legs because the forelimbs weren’t strong enough to support their body weight. 

As they aged, the forelimbs became more robust, and the hadrosaurs gradually changed to a quadrupedal lifestyle.

A Tsintaosaurus in an upright posture
A Tsintaosaurus in an upright posture | Steamblust via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

Have we already mentioned that the crest may have served as a sexual display element?

Evolution and History

The first encounter between humanity and Tsintaosaurus occurred in 1950 when paleontologists unearthed multiple hadrosaurid remains in eastern China, Shandong.

The Tsintaosaurus specimen consisted of a skull and a partial skeleton, accompanied by a skull roof belonging to a different specimen. 

Other fragmentary remains were subsequently discovered.

It took scientists approximately eight years to identify and describe the species.

Yang Zhongjian named it Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus.

A model illustrating the cranial anatomy and supracranial crest of Tsintaosaurus
A model illustrating the cranial anatomy and supracranial crest of Tsintaosaurus | Prieto-Márquez,2013 via Wikipedia CC BY 2.5

Some of the fossils were attributed to Tanius chingkankouensis instead of Tsintaosaurus

Today, the validity of this species is highly debated; scientists regard it as either synonymous with Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus or a dubious species. 

The same is true for Tanius laiyangensis, which was described in 1976.

Tsintaosaurus is now classified in the Lambeosaurinae group under the Hadrosauridae family. 

Compared to other dinosaur genera, as well as other prehistoric animal genera, the classification of Tsintaosaurus is quite well-defined. 

Luckily, there’s no room for confusion this time!

Interactions with Other Species

Tsintaosaurus grazing along a forest
Tsintaosaurus grazing along a forest | Steamblust via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

During the Late Cretaceous, Asia was dominated by hadrosaurs, ankylosaurs, and ceratopsians. 

The Asian tyrannosaurs were smaller and more primitive than their North American relatives, which dominated their territory. 

Asia was also home to various pachycephalosaurs, dromaeosaurids, and therizinosaurs.

Here are some creatures discovered in China’s Wangshi Group that may have crossed paths with Tsintaosaurus:

  • Laiyangosaurus – a saurolophine hadrosaurid
  • Tanius – a hadrosaurid dinosaur (possibly synonymous with Tsintaosaurus)
  • Sinoceratopr – ceratopsian dinosaur
  • Zhuchengceratops – a leptoceratopsid ceratopsian
  • Shantungosaurus – a saurolophine hadrosaurid
  • Zhuchengtitan – a titanosaurian sauropod
  • Zhuchengtyrannus – a tyrannosaurid theropod
  • Various reptiles

We cannot rule out the possibility that Tsintaosaurus never interacted with some of the creatures mentioned above. After all, we’ll never be sure!

We can suspect that there may have been some competition for food between herbivores, although scientists argue that they filled different ecological niches and, therefore, had distinct feeding adaptations and specializations, which allowed cohabitation.

We also cannot rule out the presence of predators in their respective habitats.

This hadrosaurid dinosaur roams alongside a herd
This hadrosaurid dinosaur roams alongside a herd | Steamblust via Jurassic World Evolution Wiki Fandom

Zhuchengtyrannus, for example, may have preyed on herbivores like Tsintaosaurus

It was a large carnivore, measuring 10 meters (33 feet) long, so it could probably easily catch and kill a Tsintaosaurus if hungry!

Cultural Significance

Although Tsintaosaurus is not as well-known as other hadrosaurs, we cannot deny that the genus is now an essential part of our world’s prehistoric wildlife puzzle!

Imagine outlining an image of Late Cretaceous China and not knowing about Tsintaosaurus

This would undoubtedly alter what we think of the ecosystem of the time, not to mention the ecological niches and interactions between species.

Scientists weren’t the only ones curious about Tsintaosaurus

An artist's impression of a Tsintaosaurus
An artist’s impression of a Tsintaosaurus | ДиБгд via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

It also makes frequent appearances in the media, therefore becoming increasingly popular among dinosaur enthusiasts. 

It appears in the Tarbosaurus movies, as well as in Jurassic World: Evolution and Jurassic World: Alive. 


Tsintaosaurus fossils were discovered in China and date from 83.6-70 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.

The remains recovered from the Jingangkou Formation of the Wangshi Group helped scientists outline a possible appearance, behavior, and life cycle of this hadrosaurid dinosaur.

As such, Tsintaosaurus had a distinctive crest, which prompted enthusiasts and scientists to nickname it the unicorn dinosaur

It also had a beak and powerful teeth that facilitated cropping and chewing vegetation.

This dinosaur had a bulky body, powerful limbs, a relatively long, curved neck, and a wide, stiff tail. 

It could walk both quadrupedally and bipedally, although scientists assume it preferred foraging on all four legs. 

If predators were around though, Tsintaosaurus would have stood on its hind limbs and run from the threat.

Tsintaosaurus was a large hadrosaurid. It measured roughly 8.3 meters (27.2 feet) in length, almost 3 meters (9.8 feet) in height, and weighed 2.5 metric tons (2.75 short tons).


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