The Stegosaurus is a dinosaur we often remember because of the large, flat plates on its back and the sharp spikes on its tail. It lived a very long time ago, during a time we call the Late Jurassic period. With such an ungainly appearance, it does open the question could the Stegosaurus swim?
Based on existing data, it’s plausible Stegosaurus could wade, float and potentially swim. Its large size, uneven limbs, and dorsal plates present challenges yet parallels to modern land and semi-aquatic animals certainly suggest some level of swimming ability
We will take a look at if a stegosaurus could swim, and if so how we come to that conclusion and what factors we have to consider – as unlike an elephant, there are no stegosaurus around to take to our local swimming pools to test the theory!
The Stegosaurus was a big dinosaur that ate plants. It had tall, flat plates on its back and sharp spikes on its tail that made it easy to recognize. The Stegosaurus lived in North America and Europe 160 million years ago.
At up to 30 feet in length and weighing up to 5 tons ( 5000 kg) it is hard to picture a stegosaurus doing well in water, but then it is also hard to imaging an elephant being able to swim as well but they most certainly can.
The areas stegosaurus lived in are thought to be semi arid so large bodies of water would have been rare for most part of the year, but as with todays environment they would have had some water at different times of the year and there is little doubt that Stegosaurus would have found its self testing that swimming ability / or not at certain times.
Could Dinosaurs Swim
These ideas often change depending on what the dinosaur looked like and where it lived. Things like the size of the dinosaur, the shape and size of its legs, and how heavy it was could all affect if a dinosaur could swim.
We have more information on swimming dinosaurs right here on the site.
Some scientists think about dinosaurs in three groups:
- dinosaurs that lived on land and couldn’t swim to any serious degree,
- dinosaurs that could swim a bit if they needed to,
- and dinosaurs that spent most of their time in the water.
Dinosaurs that mostly lived on land probably couldn’t swim very well because of how their bodies were built, however even these dinosaurs would have had some swimming ability jsut like todays modern animals.
But dinosaurs that could spend some time in the water or mostly lived in the water evolved and adapted traits and features that helped them swim. more recent depictions of the Spinosaurus are examples of this with its taller flatter tail.
Also Hesperornis in Prehistoric Plant 2 shows, what we would look at as a swimming bird, how good a swimmer some dinosaurs could be!
What about Stegosaurus
Although we look at this in more detail in the next section. to understand if the Stegosaurus could swim, we have to think about what it looked like, how its body was made up and where it lived.
The Stegosaurus was very big, had short legs, and those big, flat plates on its back. These features understandably make us wonder if it could float and move in water to the extent we can call it swimming.
We also know that the although its environment was likely dry there was certainly water sometimes, and if it migrated for food it would likely have come across rivers and lakes. So maybe the Stegosaurus had to know how to swim or walk through water to survive.
We take a look in more detail on if a stegosaurus could swim in the following section.
Could Stegosaurus Swim?
The Stegosaurus was a unique dinosaur with distinct features. that at first, and lets face it even second, glance do not lend its self to awesome swimming abilities. To figure out if it could swim, we need to consider its body shape, size, and the layout of its limbs and plates.
The Stegosaurus was a large dinosaur, with adults reaching up to 9 meters (30 feet) in length and weighing around 5 tons.
Its huge size makes us wonder about its buoyancy, or ability to float, in water. Many large animals today, like elephants, can float and swim, but they have bodies built for it. The Stegosaurus had a wide, bulky body, which may have helped it float, but could it float upright, or move its self through the water.
The Stegosaurus had four legs, but they were uneven in size. Its hind legs were longer than its front legs. This feature could have made swimming difficult as shorter front legs may not have provided efficient propulsion in water.
Although animals with a similar leg structure, such as the hippopotamus, can move in water very well, suggesting that although Stegosaurus would not have been as agile in water as a Hippo, its legs were perhaps not as much of a drawback as first thought. .
Another notable feature is the row of tall, flat plates along the dinosaur’s back. These plates, while an excellent defensive tool, could have created extra drag in water if they were submerged.
If they were particularly heavy may have even unbalanced and created an odd centre of gravity slowing the Stegosaurus down or worst case scenario over turning it in water.
However there is some evidence that stegosaurus probably could swim to a certain degree and this has been researched by M. Romano ands M.A. Whyte and published by the Yorkshire Geological Society. We take a look at that below.
Is there Fossil Evidence of Swimming Stegosaurus?
Unearthing fossils of Stegosaurus has provided crucial clues about its lifestyle. Fossils are like windows into the past, offering valuable insights about the dinosaur’s environment. Some Stegosaurus fossils have been discovered near ancient riverbeds or bodies of water.
This suggests that they lived close to water sources and may have interacted with water. One such study as we mentioned above examined swimming and walking tracks of a species of Stegosaur that show some evidence of swimming ability.
While this evidence is only suggested, and doesn’t necessarily prove that all stegosaurus could swim, it does show that they, or some species, in this case Deltapodus were able to cross water but more than jsut wading. we have the link above for this.
As technology and our understanding of dinosaurs evolve, we hope to gain more definitive answers in the future.
Comparison to Modern Animals
When we look at modern animals, some resemble the Stegosaurus in surprising ways. For instance, hippos have short legs and a big body but can move through water effectively. Elephants, despite their size, are also good swimmers.
However, not all big animals alive today have the same abilities, for example while Asian Rhinos are great swimmers, their larger cousins the African rhinos are pretty bad in water and may even drown if they go to deep or get into difficulties.
These examples might suggest that the Stegosaurus, with its similar features, could have had some ability to move in water. However, without definitive proof, this remains an educated guess.
You can check out what we think of other dinosaurs swimming abilities here on the site with the links below.
- Could Stegosaurus Swim
- Could Tyrannosaurus Swim
- Could Triceratops Swim
- Could Pyroraptor Swim
- Could Velociraptor Swim
So, could the Stegosaurus swim? Based on its physical features, environmental factors, fossil evidence, and comparisons to modern animals, it’s possible. it wouldn’t have been leaping from the water like a dolphin, but crossing a river, wading in deeper water are likely to have been within its skill set.
… and we cant get the image out of our head that If those plates were half submerged it would have looked like a small head being chased by a pack of sharks!
Hi, I am Roy Ford a General Studies and English Teacher who has taught all over the world. What started as a fossil collection became a great way to teach, motivate and inspire students of all ages and all over the world about dinosaurs and from that and children’s love of dinosaurs came the site dinosaur facts for kids, a resource for all ages.