Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
|An artist's illustration of Sauropelta edwardsorum|
| †Sauropelta edwardsorum|
Sauropelta (/ˌsɔrɵˈpɛltə/ SAWR-o-PEL-tə; meaning 'lizard shield') is a genus of nodosaurid dinosaur that existed in the Early Cretaceous Period of North America. One species, S. Edwardsorum, has been named although others may have existed. Anatomically, Sauropelta is one of the most well-understood nodosaurids, with fossilized remains recovered in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and possibly Utah. It is also the earliest known genus of nodosaurid; most of its remains are found in the Cloverly Formation, which dates to about 108.05±0.2 Ma (million years ago).
It was a medium-sized nodosaurid, measuring about 5 meters (16.5 ft) long. Sauropelta had a distinctively long tail which made up about half of its body length. Although its body was smaller than a modern black rhinoceros, Sauropelta was about the same mass, weighing in at about 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb). The extra weight was largely due to its extensive bony body armour, including the characteristically large spines projecting from its neck.
This dinosaur looked similar to other nodosaurids, except for the fact that it had huge spikes growing from its sides of its neck. The spikes were probably used to stop larger carnivores from reaching the neck, the most vulnerable spot to most dinosaurs. It had a long tail, and unlike most other nodosaurids, it had a longer and more narrow head.