Dinosaurs Named for their Teeth I

In some cases, all a paleontologist has in order to name a dinosaur are a handful of fossilized teeth. In this article, you will learn about the naming of prehistoric creatures that do not have a complete skeleton to accompany their fossilized remains, as well as one species where several skeletons were found in a bonebed.


The only thing that has survived of the Astrodon’s existence is the fossilized teeth that were collected in Maryland. The name of the creature translates into ‘star tooth’ and is used to describe the teeth of the long-necked plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the early Cretaceous period, which was about 130 million to 120 million years ago. The Astrodon got its name from Christopher Johnston in 1859, and has been the state dinosaur of Maryland ever since.


The Deinodon (meaning ‘terrible tooth’) was a carnivore that lived during the late Cretaceous period. While an entire specimen has not been found of the creature, a dozen large, fossilized teeth collected by Dr. F. V. Hayden led to the naming of the lizard in 1856 by paleontologist J. Leidy. The teeth were gathered from the Judith River in Montana.


The name of the Iguanodon translates into ‘iguana tooth’ ”“ and is used to describe the plant-eating dinosaur that thrived during the early Cretaceous period, which dates back about 135 to 125 million years. Using its strong beak, the dinosaur most likely dined on meals consisting of cycads and other prehistoric plants. While the Iguanodon did not have any teeth in the front of its mouth, it did have pretty strong teeth located in the side of its jaw (cheek teeth). Measuring about 2 inches long, the teeth were used to grind up tough plant material.

Although the Iguanodon was a plant-eating dinosaur, it still had a conical spike on each thumb that other species of dinosaurs may have used to take down their prey. The thumb spikes probably served as a way to defend itself against other creatures, but may have also helped it collect plants. The average size of the Iguanodon was 30 feet long, 16 feet tall at the hips, and reaching weighs up to 4 to 5 tons.

Researchers believe that the Iguanodon was most likely a herding creature since bonebed discoveries have been unearthed in Belgium. The collection of Iguanodon fossils suggest that the dinosaurs congregated during their lives. The teeth and a few bones of the Iguanodon were uncovered in 1822, which led to the naming of the creature by Gideon A. Mantell in 1825. Mantell saw a similarity between the teeth of the dinosaur and the modern-day iguana. The only difference was that the dinosaur had much larger teeth.  Iguanodon fossils have since been found all over the rest of the world, including England, Germany, North Africa, and the United States.