Shantungosaurus giganteus is one of the largest known ornithischians, the type skull is 1.63 metres (5.3 ft) long and the composite skeleton mounted at the Geological Institute of China in Beijing measures 14.72 metres (48.3 ft) in length while another mounted skeleton, originally referred to "Zhuchengosaurus maximus", measures 16.6 metres (54 ft) in length. The largest individuals may have weighted as much as 16 tonnes (18 short tons). Like all hadrosaurs its beak was toothless, but its jaws were packed with around 1,500 tiny chewing teeth. A large hole near its nostrils may have been covered by a loose flap, which could be inflated to make sounds.
Discovery and speciesEdit
First described in 1973, Shantungosaurus is known from over five incomplete skeletons. Chinese scientist Xing Xu and his colleagues indicate that Shantungosaurus is very similar to and shares many unique characters with Edmontosaurus, forming an Asian node of Edmontosaurus–Shantungosaurus clade, based on the new materials recovered in Shandong. Remains of several individuals, including skull bones, limb bones, and vertebrae, were found in Shandong, China. These specimens were classified in the new genus and species Zhuchengosaurus maximus in 2007. However, further study showed that the supposedly distinct features of Zhuchengosaurus were simply a result of different growth stages.
Recent maximum parsimony analyses of Hadrosauroidea recovered a stable sister group relationship between Edmontosaurus and Shantungosaurus. Shantungosaurus is the single hadrosaurid from the Zhucheng area that is considered valid. Zhuchengosaurus and Huaxiaosaurus, both of which are known from the same region, are interpreted here as junior synonyms of Shantungosaurus. All unequivocal morphological discrepancies among these three taxa could be attributed to intraspecific variation (ontogenetic and polymorphic variation) and post-depositional distortion.