A dinosaur with a duck’s beak


  • Name: Anatotitan
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Weight: 3 tons
  • Period: Cretaceous
  • Found In: North America

The genus Anatotitan is a group of hadrosaurid ornitischid dinosaurs that lived on the planet in the Upper Cretaceous Period about 67 million years ago, in today’s North America.

This genus of dinosaurs has several synonyms, due to the different findings were named with other names, but after the work of bibliography and inventory ended up naming the genus as Anatotitan.

Some of the synonyms used are well known as Edmontosaurus annectes, others may not be as popular as Trachodon longiceps, and even some very similar to the original name Anatosaurus longiceps.

The name Anatotitan literally means “giant duck”, due mainly to the characteristic shape of its beak. Want to know more about this fascinating dinosaur? In this article, you will find all the information you need.

Anatotitan Taxonomy

  • This dinosaur belonged to the Kingdom Animalia.
  • The Anatotitan belonged to the Chordata Edge.
  • His Class was the Archosauria.
  • The Superordinate Dinosaur that this dinosaur belonged to was Dinosauria.
  • The Order to which the Anatotitan belonged was Ornithischia.
  • The Suborder of this dinosaur was Ornithopoda.
  • The Anatotitan’s Infraorder was Iguanodontia.
  • The Superfamily to which this dinosaur belonged was Hadrosauroidea.
  • The Family of this Anatotitan was Hadrosauridae.
  • The subfamily of this dinosaur was Hadrosaurinae.
  • Finally, the dinosaur species studied today was E. annectens.

As we can see, the Anatotitan dinosaur came to belong to a peculiar family called Hadrosauridae, which is located or taxonomically located within the subfamily called Hadrosaurinae.

The members of the subfamily Hadrosaurinae are simple or easy to recognize because of one quality they all have: a regular flat head.

For a long time and by many scientists, this dinosaur was associated with E. annectens, due to similar characteristics, this happened shortly before, in fact, some scientists like John Bell Hatcher decided to place dinosaurs as synonyms practically, all this happened in the early twentieth century, specifically in 1902.

The idea was largely supported by other great scientists of the stature of David B. Weishamel and even Catherine Foster, however, this support came after a relatively long time, as these scientists formulated their approval in the middle of the 21st century, in 2004.

The life of the Anatotitan on planet earth

As we mentioned initially, this dinosaur developed its existence on our planet during a certain period of time within the extensive Mesozoic Age, also known as the Dinosaur Age due to the hegemony of these prehistoric reptiles.

Specifically, the Anatotitan inhabited the earth during the Upper Cretaceous Period, which is believed to have taken place approximately 67 million years ago.


This dinosaur lived in the territory we now know as North America, this data is determined by the fact that its remains were found within the current territory of South Dakota and Montana, in the United States of America.

The period in which the Anatotitan lived is actually a period that corresponds to the last millions of years of the era of all dinosaurs, so they are said to be the last survivors of that period.

Who discovered the Anatotitan?

The vestiges of this great dinosaur were actually found within what is now known as the Hell Creek Formation and within another formation called the Lance Formation.

On the other hand, at least six individuals of this genus have been obtained, thanks to them we have the data we know today of this dinosaur, usually these individuals were found almost intact, because their skeletons are very well preserved and almost complete, especially in the cranial area, which is one of the most important.

Like other dinosaurs, this dinosaur also shares the story that its taxonomy was not easy to complete and therefore it is assumed that there were many inconveniences and heated debates from it.

The first individual we have is a holotype that has a complete skull and whose skeleton is largely intact, this individual was found in 1882, by the team of Dr. J. L. Wortman and R. S. Hill, who were working on behalf of the great Edward Drinker Cope.

The interesting thing is that, according to the discoverers’ descriptions, this individual had large traces of skin at first, which would inevitably be lost due to manipulation for further studies and research, and from the same source we can also know that an area of the pelvis and some elements of the torso were missing.

According to these same descriptions, we are even told that the beak of this enormous dinosaur may have been composed of keratin and may even have had a fairly solid corneal envelope, which had a group of small elements similar to teeth, both at the top and bottom of the beak.

It is also known that when this team of researchers was describing this dinosaur, it was originally assigned to a group called Diclonius mirabilis, which is actually a combination of Diclonius and Trachodon mirabilis (a hadrosaurid known only by one tooth).

This perspective of Edward Drinker Cope, that is to say, the fact that he called all hadrosaurids mere amphibians, had a great influence during his time and it can even be said that he dominated the scientific scene for many years, for decades.


The scientist himself was led to this reasoning because he assumed that the teeth at the bottom of the beak were almost disconnected from the bone and for that reason could have broken down easily if they were trying to eat any food of the terrestrial type, for the same reason the structure of the beak was considered to be weak.

However, after many years, several scientists were in charge of demolishing those theories and assumptions of the great Edward Drinker Cope, and they came to the conclusion that this gentleman had done nothing but misinterpret the remains of that dinosaur, especially misinterpreted the bones of the skull, an important area in the study of any individual.

From that, they realized that what was really needed were the walls that supported those teeth, so there was not enough evidence to assume that the teeth had nowhere to lean on with strength.

This individual, the AMNH 5730, was kept under serious care in the famous American Museum of Natural History.

In this museum, in the year 1899, shortly after its discovery, Edward Drinker Cope himself promised to describe the entire skeleton, but to this day these studies never saw the light of day.

Let’s remember that a few years ago, his fiercest rival was going to appear in the act, the great Othniel Charles Marsh made the intelligent decision to publish a recent finding consisting of nothing more and nothing less than a lower jaw, an important element that was found by a member of his team, the researcher Juan Bell Hatcher, precisely in 1889, in the famous Lance Formation of the County, located in Niobrara, Wyoming.

This finding is currently in the Peabody Natural History Museum.

On the other hand, we have Wright, who claims that there are areas of the jaw that have partially thin and long qualities, unlike the individual who had Edward Drinker Cope, who had a thick area on the sides.

In addition, this Edward Drinker Cope individual was smaller in size, as his jaw was only 92 centimeters long, while the other was 110 centimeters long.

In 1904, a much more complete individual was found, a skeleton labeled AMNH 5886, found in an internal area of the Hell Creek Formation, precisely on rocks in Central Montana, and the person who found these remains was no less than a rancher.

The two characters were in the midst of various doubts because they did not know if they were really fossils or recent bones, to clear up these doubts one of them decided to kick one of the bones, breaking some parts.

Later this act became something that everyone in the world of Paleontology would regret because important parts were lost with that decision, parts that could serve to clarify various doubts about dinosaurs, an act that was criticized quite harshly by Barnum Brown.

Continuing with the story of the rancher’s discovery, it was someone else who actually took over the discovery and then made a profit, and then sold the remains to researcher Barnum Brown, who did the required work, and then went deeper into the American Museum of Natural History, just beginning in the 20th century, in 1906.

This almost anecdotally found individual was actually very important because he had an almost intact spine, which made it easier for the research team to successfully reconstruct the specimen.

After these events, in 1907, these individuals were reconstructed and then exhibited in a world-famous natural history museum.

As we have already noticed, the issue of the taxonomy of these curious hadrosaurids was very problematic for several years, especially in the early twentieth century, because there was a great proliferation of various renowned authors and researchers who proposed a number of theories, classifications, and generalizations, among others.

However, many of them did not present sufficient evidence or convincing reasoning to make their different theories possible or valid.

But then the “peace” was to come in spite of everything because the vast majority of these scientists managed to have or reach an agreement on this taxonomy that caused many problems at various times.

All this was made possible thanks to the great work of a researcher named John Bell Hatcher, who in 1902 was in charge of providing a practical solution and with whom the great majority would agree.

This decision is about nothing more and nothing less than grouping together a large number of the hadrosaurids of which we were aware and then introducing them into the Trachodon.

Let us remember that among these hadrosaurids we have the Claorhynchus and even the Polyonax.

But just as the war was not eternal, neither was peace, soon a series of situations and circumstances would arise again that would give way to the controversy on the same subject, taxonomy.

It turns out that in 1910 new conclusions will be drawn from new study material, and they will confirm some conclusions related to the diversity of these hadrosaurids.

It was Charles W. Gilmore who took the trouble to review the recent hadrosaurids found in 1905, finally claiming that he recommended that the mysterious Thespesius be brought back into the hadrosaurids of the Lance Formation and that the Trachodon be included in the Judith River Formation.

On the other hand, he issued severe criticisms of the Trachodon study, stating that research was carried out without having sufficient objects of study, and this is the explanation for why there are several synonyms.

Anatotitan characteristics

If we look closely we can get to get several descriptions in a simple way, on the one hand, we have the length of this individual, which is about 12 meters approximately, in addition to that we can see that it has a head of flattened quality but considerable size.

This type of cranial structure makes it one of the dinosaurs that best represents the duck-like beaked dinosaurs with flat heads that we have known throughout history.


One of its characteristics, as we have already mentioned, is that it has been classified or introduced into the Anatosaurus and even into the Diclonius, without forgetting that it was also included as a member of the Trachodon.

As for its height, it reached a height of about 3 meters and its weight was around 30 tons and more, at most.

Let’s remember that the hadrosaurs had the main characteristic of the duck beak, and this dinosaur was one of them, besides that we noticed that they did not have any type of tubular crest, and on their extremities, we can see that the hind legs enjoy greater height than the front legs.

This type of detail reveals that this animal was able to walk in both bipedal and quadrupedal formats.

Feeding and behavior of the Anatotitan

In particular, we know that this dinosaur enjoyed eating vegetables, whose digestion process was quite well developed, because it had an excellent system, which allowed it to chew and process its food to get the most out of it, this process is explained in detail in herbivorous dinosaurs.

The teeth that this animal had were susceptible to stop working effectively and therefore had to be replaced by the body itself.

On the other hand, it also had spaces such as the cheeks to store food while chewing, otherwise, the food could have fallen off, preventing the correct feeding of the food.

As for the type of vegetation that this animal preferred to feed on, it is known that any type of plant that grew to a height of 4 meters could have been quickly devoured by this dinosaur.

It is known that because of the characteristics or qualities of his extremities and some other parts of his body, this dinosaur could walk on two or four legs without representing too much difficulty for him, in fact, it was a mechanism he used to get out of problems in a simple way.

Another peculiar feature of the Anatotitan was that it had some curious soft tissue sacs that were located in a nasal membrane, which we can see through various holes in its nose.

The practical use that this dinosaur could give to these inflatable tissues was that it probably managed to emit sounds and send signals to both its companions and its main enemies, just as other animals emit sounds in our modern times.

The Anatotitan in our times

This dinosaur specimen is not as well known as others, however, it has appeared on several occasions before our eyes in many media and even in famous series.

An example of this is its inclusion in a famous BBC documentary, this documentary in which the dinosaur we are studying today has even appeared is the one called “Death of a Dynasty“.

In the documentary mentioned, the Anatotitan is depicted as the last of the duck-billed dinosaurs that were hunted by the dreaded Tyrannosaurus rex, a theropod of great strength and size.

Another documentary in which this specimen appears is in the famous “When Dinosaurs Roamed America”.