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Discovery and Classification
Terrible Lizards Discovered | Classification | Saurischia
Iguanodontia | Sauropodomorpha | Theropoda | Ornithischia
Marginocephalia | Ceratopsia | Pachycephalosauria
Ornithopoda | Thyreophora | Stegosauria | Ankylosauria

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Members of Stegosauria (steg-oh-SAWR-ee-uh) were quadrupedal herbivores with rows of plates running down their backs and spikes upon their tails. The spikes were probably useful in discouraging predators; a stegosaur could maneuver itself so that it could swat at a predator with its tail. The purpose of the plates is less clear.

One suggestion for their purpose is that they were armor against carnivores, but as such, they would have left great areas unprotected. They may have been “radiators,” used by stegosaurs to collect the heat of the sun in cool weather (assuming they were cold-blooded) or to radiate it away in hot weather. Support from this idea comes from the finding of fine grooves in the surface of the plates, grooves that could have held a network of blood vessels. If blood vessels did run just below the stegosaur's skin but above the bone, the plates would not have been very effective as armor.

There are eleven known kinds of stegosaurs. The best-known of them, Stegosaurus, has been popularized incorrectly as a having "second brain". In fact, all stegosaurs had a node in their spinal column near the hind legs that was probably a mass of nerves to assist in the control of their hindquarters.

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