Polacanthus lived in Europe, particularly the area of modern England now recognised as the Isle of Wight.
Polacanthus lived in the early Cretaceous Period, 130-125 million years ago. The Cretaceous period was the third and final segment of the Mesozoic Era after the Triassic and Jurassic periods. Until the Mesozoic Era the continents which exist today were fused into one super continent known as Pangaea. During the Cretaceous period Pangaea broke apart and spread across the Earth’s surface. This change slowly cooled the planets climate and the continents and oceans familiar to us today began to take form. The period ended with the mass extinction of the dinosaurs after an asteroid hit the Earth.
These dinosaurs were 5m (16ft) long, stood 2m (7ft) high and weighed 2 metric tons.
They were herbivores which fed low to the ground.
Polacanthus isn’t as well-known as many other dinosaurs because there aren’t many of their remains left and those that have been recovered are incomplete. Their fossils have all been found on the coast where the sea waves have eroded their bones away. Therefore, there is still a great deal to learn about them.
Its name means ‘many spines’ because of the bony spikes and knobs covering its back, shoulders and tail. They had a ‘floating’ shield on their back which wasn’t connected to any of the bones underneath. This acted like a large piece of armour for protection against predators which couldn’t have bitten down on a polacanthus without getting stabbed by all their spikes. Predators would have also struggled to bite through their armour, so they were very well protected. Additionally, they had a row of spikes running along their tail but were one of the earliest armoured dinosaurs to evolve without a club at the end of it.