Dino of the week: Edmontonia – Edmonton

An armoured dinosaur named for Alberta’s capital has been living in the shadow of its more famous cousin.

Edmontonia belongs to a “forgotten” branch of the armoured dinosaur family tree. The tank-like critter is a nodosaurid, as opposed to the much more famous ankylosaurids.

As part of the summer-long series Backyard Dinosaurs — which features a different Alberta dinosaur each week — University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active how the city’s namesake dinosaur has lost the limelight to its distant relative.

Ankylosaurids were armoured dinosaurs with a bony club at the ends of their tails which could be used defensively against predators such as tyrannosaurs.

Scott Persons says the Edmontonia deserves more fame for its strange tank-like build. (Amanda Kelley)

“Their tail weaponry makes ankylosaurids work well as as subjects for dramatic museum murals or action figures or as characters in Saturday morning cartoons,” Persons said.

“Ankylosaurids have made appearances in the last two Jurassic Park movies, but the directors have yet to cast a nodosaurid,” he said.

At least the poor Edmontonia had plenty of weaponry to defend themselves, said Persons.

Something to fight about? 

Nodosaurids’ tails were lined along either side with a row of triangular spikes, like “the teeth down the blade of a saw,” which could be used to slash a predator.

Nearly seven metres long, the Edmontonia also had a killer set of shoulder pads. The bony spikes over Edmontonia’s shoulders grew to over a foot long, with some pointing sideways and others facing dead ahead.

“When threatened, Edmontonia could do a lot more than just hunker down, it could charge forward and swerve at impact to sideswipe a predator,” Persons said, who argues the beast deserves more respect.  

“You’d think that, at least locally, a dinosaur named Edmontonia that was specifically adapted to shoulder-check…

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