Desmatosuchus lived at the very beginning of the dinosaur age, about 230 million years ago. This creature looked a bit like a crocodile but it had sharp spikes running down its back. In fact its name, Desmatosuchus, means "link crocodile". But Desmatosuchuswas not a crocodile. It was not even a true dinosaur. It was an ancient reptile called an aetosaur. It wasn’t a true dinosaur because it was missing certain things: special bones in its back, a thumb, roller joints and a large bone called a “tibia”. Many people still consider this creature to be a dinosaur, however, because it looks like other dinosaurs living at the same time.
Desmatosuchus was the first of the armored creatures. This means that it had heavy bones called plates along its back and sides for protection. The spikes along its back were useful against predators who wanted to eat Desmatosuchus for food. The spikes on its shoulders were the longest – up to 18 inches long. It had a short snout that looked a little like a bird’s beak. It had a stout, heavy body with four short legs. It had a long tail. It grew to be about 14 feet long, which is about the size of a minivan.
Desmatosuchus had weak, blunt teeth. Because of this we believe that it was an herbivore, meaning that it ate plants. It was probably a slow-moving creature that ate leaves and roots and plodded along carefully under all the heavy plates and spikes. The first Desmatosuchus bones were found in the southwestern United States, in what is now the state of Texas.