Fossil range: Upper Cretaceous
Anatotitan C.Knight
Classic conception of Trachodon by Charles R. Knight, based on specimens now classified as Anatotitan.
Scientific classification












Leidy, 1856


Trachodon (meaning "rough tooth") is a dubious genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur based on teeth from the Campanian-age Upper Cretaceous Judith River Formation of Montana, U.S.A.[1] It is a historically-important genus with a convoluted taxonomy that has been all but abandoned by modern dinosaur paleontologists.[2]

Interestingly, despite being used for decades as the iconic duckbill dinosaur per antonomasia (see here for a brief discussion on its use in toys and popular culture), the material it is based on is composed of teeth from both duckbills and ceratopsids (their teeth have a distinctive double root[3]), and its describer, Joseph Leidy, came to recognize the difference and suggested limiting the genus to what would now be seen as ceratopsid teeth.[2] Restricted to the duckbill teeth, it may have been a lambeosaurine.[4]

History and taxonomyEdit

In 1856, Joseph Leidy received fragmentary remains from the Judith River Formation, collected by Ferdinand V. Hayden. From these bones, he provided the first names for North American dinosaurs: Deinodon, Palaeoscincus, Trachodon, and Troodon (then spelled Troödon), the latter of which being the only name still in use.[1] Trachodon was based on ANSP 9260, seven unassociated teeth, one of which had double roots. With better remains from Hadrosaurus, he began to reconsider his taxonomy, and suggested, at least informally, that Trachodon should refer to the double-rooted tooth, and the other teeth should be referred to Hadrosaurus.[5] In the Bone Wars that followed, and their wake, the taxonomy of Trachodon and its relatives became increasingly confusing,[2] with one author going so far as to sink all known hadrosaur species into Trachodon except for Claosaurus agilis,[6] but as new material was described from the Rocky Mountain region, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, later authors began progressively restricting the reach of this genus.[4][7]

Pasta - triceratops brain

A 1905 chart showing the relatively small brain of an Edmontosaurus (bottom). At the time, this specimen was referred to the genus Trachodon.

By 1942, and the publication of the influential Lull-Wright monograph on duckbills, its holotype was regarded as "typical of all the genera of hadrosaurian dinosaur", except for the roughened margin that gave it its name, and which they regarded as due to the tooth having not been used (p. 149).[8] The name is no longer in use, except in historical discussions, and is considered a nomen dubium.[9][10][11]


Numerous species have been referred to this genus, mostly before World War I. Only those which were originally named as a species of Trachodon will be considered here.

Type species: T. mirabilis Leidy, 1856[1]

Other species:


Pasta - mummified trachodon - AmMusNatHist

These well-preserved remains of an Edmontosaurus wrapped in skin impressions were once referred to the genus Trachodon.

As a hadrosaurid, Trachodon would have been a large, bipedal/quadrupedal herbivore.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Leidy, J. (1856). Notice of remains of extinct reptiles and fishes, discovered by Dr. F. V. Hayden in the Bad Lands of the Judith River, Nebraska Territories. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science Philadelphia 8:72-73.
  2. ^ a b c Creisler, B.S. (2007). Deciphering duckbills. in: K. Carpenter (ed.), Horns and Beaks: Ceratopsian and Ornithopod Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis, 185-210. ISBN 0-253-34817-X
  3. ^ Hatcher, J.B., Marsh, O.C. and Lull, R.S. (1907). The Ceratopsia. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 300 pp. ISBN 0405127138
  4. ^ a b Sternberg, C.M. (1936). The systematic position of Trachodon. Journal of Paleontology 10(7):652-655.
  5. ^ Leidy, J. (1868). Remarks on a jaw fragment of Megalosaurus. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science Philadelphia 20:197-200.
  6. ^ Hatcher, J.B. (1902). The genus and species of the Trachodontidae (Hadrosauridae, Claosauridae) Marsh. Annals of the Carnegie Museum 14(1):377-386.
  7. ^ Gilmore, C.W. (1915). On the genus Trachodon. Science 41:658-660.
  8. ^ a b Lull, R.S., and Wright, N.E. (1942). Hadrosaurian Dinosaurs of North America. Geological Society of America Special Paper 40:1-242.
  9. ^ Coombs, Jr., W.P. (1988). The status of the dinosaurian genus Diclonius and the taxonomic utility of hadrosaurian teeth. Journal of Paleontology 62:812-818.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Weishampel, D.B., and Horner, J.R. (1990). Hadrosauridae. In: Weishampel, D.B., Dodson, P., and Osmólska, H. (eds.). The Dinosauria. University of California Press:Berkeley, 534-561. ISBN 0-520-24209-2
  11. ^ a b c d e f Horner, J.R., Weishampel, D.B., and Forster, C.A. (2004). Hadrosauridae. In: Weishampel, D.B., Dodson, P., and Osmólska, H. (eds.). The Dinosauria (second edition). University of California Press:Berkeley, 438-463. ISBN 0-520-06727-4
  12. ^ a b c Lambe, L.M. (1902). On Vertebrata of the mid-Cretaceous of the Northwest Territory. 2. New genera and species from the Belly River Series (mid-Cretaceous). Contributions to Canadian Paleontology 3:25-81.
  13. ^ Osborn, Henry Fairfield (1902). "Distinctive characters of the mid-Cretaceous fauna. 1. New genera and species from the Belly River Series (mid-Cretaceous)". Contributions to Canadian Paleontology 3: 1–21. 
  14. ^ Riabinin, A.N. (1925). A mounted skeleton of the gigantic reptile Trachodon amurense, nov. sp. Izvest. Geol. Kom. 44(1):1-12. [Russian]
  15. ^ Riabinin, A.N. (1930). Mandschurosaurus amurensis, nov. gen., nov. sp., a hadrosaurian dinoasur from the Upper Cretaceous of Amur River. Mémoir II, Société Paléontologique de Russie. [Russian]
  16. ^ Cope, E.D. (1871). Supplement to the synopsis of the extinct Batrachia and Reptilia of North America. American Philosophical Society, Proceedings 12(86):41-52.
  17. ^ Lydekker, R. (1888). Note on a new Wealden iguanodont and other dinosaurs. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 44:46-61.
  18. ^ Marsh, O.C. (1897). Vertebrate fossils of the Denver Basin. U.S. Geological Survey, Monthly 27:473-527.
  19. ^ Lambe, L.M. (1914). On a new genus and species of carnivorous dinosaur from the Belly River Formation of Alberta, with a description of the skull of Stephanosaurus marginatus from the same horizon. Ottawa Naturalist 28:13-20.
  20. ^ Parks, W.A. (1923). Corythosaurus intermedius, a new species of trachodont dinosaur. University of Toronto Studies, Geological Series. 15:1-57
  21. ^ a b C. W. Gilmore. 1924. On the genus Stephanosaurus, with a description of the type specimen of Lambeosaurus lambei, Parks. Canada Department of Mines Geological Survey Bulletin (Geological Series) 38(43):29-48.

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