Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 103, Issue 2, pp 235–240 | Cite as

A model for the bite mechanics in the herbivorous dinosaur Stegosaurus (Ornithischia, Stegosauridae)

  • Miriam ReichelEmail author


Although the herbivorous dinosaur Stegosaurus (Ornithischia, Stegosauridae) is a well-described Late Jurassic taxon, little is known about the feeding habits and biomechanics of its homodont dentition. The presence of a rhamphotheca has been suggested, but it is still unknown how much such structure would have participated in the foraging behaviour of Stegosaurus. To better understand the feeding mechanism of this taxon, three-dimensional models of a Stegosaurus tooth were created, using the software ZBrush®. One model was simple and lacked serrations, whereas the other model included serrations. Those models were then transferred to the software Strand7®, where finite element analyses took place. The models were given material properties of enamel, based on studies done with crocodilian and mammalian teeth. In addition to that, bite forces were calculated for Stegosaurus, based on skull proportions. The results show little difference between the force distributions on the serrated and non-serrated models, indicating an efficient mechanism of stress dissipation that avoids high stresses being transferred to the jaw bones during biting. Digital plant models were also created to test the calculated bite forces in Stegosaurus, which suggests this animal was capable of biting through smaller branches. Computer modelling and analyses provide additional information about feeding habits and plant preferences for Stegosaurus, and can be adapted for studying other comparable herbivorous taxa.


Stegosaurus Tooth Biomechanics Morrison Formation Finite element (FE) Digital plant model 

Institutional abbreviations


Sauriermuseum Aathal, Switzerland


National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (formerly United States National Museum), Washington DC, USA



Thanks to H. J. “Kirby” Siber for organizing the Symposium on Stegosauria and arranging for student travel funding. Additional thanks to Emanuel Tschopp, Jean-Paul Billon-Bruyat, Eric Snively, Philip J. Currie for great help with figures, suggestions on the manuscript and ideas for this project. Thanks to Emily Rayfield and Daniela Schwarz-Wings for reviews and helpful comments. Alberta Ingenuity and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided funding for this project.


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Copyright information

© Swiss Geological Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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