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12/10/2018 : 10:53 am : +0100

Plateosaur Discoveries



The Plateosaur was one of the first, big dinosaurs in the history of the earth with a body length of 7 - 8 meters.


The head was relatively small (30 - 40 cm). The 60 spade-shaped teeth per jaw, had sharp cutting edges in front and in the back of the tooth. Based on the arrangement of the teeth one can conclude, that it was a herbivore.

Legs and Pace

The hind legs were significantly bigger than the forelegs. Both were equipped with strong claws, which were used to dig for plants and roots as well as for defense. In earlier times one believed, that the Plateosaur walked upright on its big hind legs. However, today one assumes that the dinosaur could erect itself, but usually walked on all four legs.

Skeleton of the plateosaurus engelhardti, drawing by R. Kindlimann


Plateosaur bones were dated back to the late Triassic period. That is, they are over 200 million years old. Thus, the Plateosaur is situated at the root of dinosaur development. Most of the dinosaurs appeared only in the Jurassic and Cretatious period, many million years later.


It is assumed today, that Plateosaurs ate plants, mostly horsetail. With its strong legs armed with claws, the animals could also reach the underground, nutritious rhizomes and tuber of this plant. With its very sharp teeth it cut these roots without any problem.

Way of Living

From the numerous findings of extensive remains of Plateosaurs one concluded, that the animals lived in herds, like many herbivores today: e.g. zebras, gnus, elephants etc. In search for food, they wandered in the flat, at times flooded, at times dried out desert-like land. If they were not successful in finding enough food and water, the animals starved to death or died of thirst.

At the next strong rain, these cadavers or parts of it were being carried away by muddy torrents and deposited in the lower regions with the mud.  Over time, the mud dried out and settled. Because of the pressure of additional layers of mud, the brittle bones of the dinosaurs broke and got flattened. The dried soft tissue like muscle, tendons or skin decayed completely over time.


The huge herbivore dinosaurs of the Jurassic period like Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Seismosaurus are being termed sauropods by scientists. Plateosaurus and its close relatives from the late Triassic period are predecessors, hence are called prosauropods.

Places of Discoveries

The prosauropods, to which also the Plateosaurs belomged to, were widespread. However, Plateosaurs were being known only from central Europe, in particlular Germany, Switzerland and France. Besides Frick, there are two other significant sites of Plateosaur discoveries: Trossingen in Southern Germany near Rottweil and Halberstadt in Northern Germany.

At both German site of discoveries there were very successful excavations already in the beginning of the 20th century. However, today, Halberstatt is not accessible anymore. Since 2007, there are further excavations at Trossingen. The site is located in midst of a protected landscape, ideally suited for paleontologists.

Mounted skeletons are on display at domestic and foreign museums. A realistic reconstruction can be seen at the Museum of Natural History in Basel.