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Saichania chulsanensis. See more dinosaur images.

Brian Franczak

SAICHANIA (sigh-CHAIN-ee-uh)

Period: Late Cretaceous

Order, Suborder, Family: Ornithischia, Thyreophora, Ankylosauridae

Location: Asia (Mongolia)

Length: 22 feet (6.6 meters)

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Saichania was described from a partial skeleton with the armor preserved the way it was when the animal was alive. The dinosaur died in a sandstorm; it was found squatting on its belly in sandstone. At one time the entire skeleton was present, but erosion destroyed most of the rear of the skeleton. Several other partial skeletons have recently been discovered and these add much to our knowledge of the animal.

The skull of Saichania had odd, domed armored plates fused to the top. The skull also had large spines on its head that curved slightly down and back. It had two bone collars with keeled (ridged) plates fused to them. Similar keeled plates probably covered the body and tail. The end of the tail had a small club with three plates.

The teeth were small and were suited for a diet of soft plants. Scientists do not know what these plants were, since the sandstone that preserved Saichania was poor at preserving plants. These plants must have been suited to a hot, dry environment. To cope with this harsh environment, Saichania may have moistened the air it breathed with a complex air passage in the skull. If the air was not moistened, then the lungs and other tissue would have lost water; this would have caused the animal's death. Living in such a hot environment would have also required Saichania to get rid of excess body heat. This heat was lost by evaporation of the moisture in its air passage. This is much like a modern dog panting on a hot day.