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ROMKids Artventures: Stegosaurus and the Bone Wars

BONE-jour Artventures! Today we’re morphing into dinosaurs as we create our very own Stegosaurus plate costume!

While you’re getting set up, join us on a ROAR-some adventure as we travel back to the 1800s and learn all about palaeontology’s most controversial duo and the bone they had to pick with each other. Then, learn all about the Stegosaurus and pay special attention to its spiky back for your costume!

Stegosaurus Plated Back(Pack)


  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint (Acrylic or tempera)
  • Stapler/glue/tape
  • Hole puncher (single hole)
  • String or Yarn
  • Cardboard egg cartons (if you want two sets of plates like a Stegosaurus, you will need two egg cartons) 

Grab all of the materials you will need for the craft. Make sure you protect your work surface. Today’s craft might get messy, so consider wearing an old shirt or smock that you don’t mind getting dirty. 

Step 1

1. Take your egg carton and cut off the lid, but don’t throw it away—we will be using it later! Then, cut off the sides so that only the cones in the middle are left—these will be your spikes. If you are making two sets of plates, repeat the same cuts, but you won’t need the second lid.

Step 2

2. Collect your favourite colours and paint your spikes and the lid of the carton.

If you are using multiple colours, grab some water and an old washcloth or paper towel to clean your brush in between colours.

Step 3

3. Once everything is fully dry, punch a hole in the lid’s four corners. If you don’t have a single-hole hand puncher, you can use your scissors and carefully cut or poke a hole instead, or get an adult to give you a hand.

Step 5

4. With one strand of string or yarn, knot each end around the holes on one side of your lid. Repeat with another piece of yarn or string on the other side. It should end up looking like backpack straps.

5. Using glue, a stapler, or tape, attach your plates to the lid. 

We attached ours to either side to look like our Stegosaurus friend. But you can attach them however you like with the materials you have. If you are using one egg carton, attach the plates down the middle, like a Spinosaurus!

Make sure you cut the string long enough to fit around your shoulders the way a backpack would. You can also tie two separate strings to the carton lid, and then tie them together around your arm to make sure you’ve got the perfect fit.

Step 6

6. Jaunt around in your new Stegosaurus Plate Back(pack) and ROAR like a dinosaur!

The Bone Wars

In the late 1800s, renowned American palaeontologists, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, began fighting in a battle of brains, known today as “The Bone Wars.”

After multiple disagreements, the two started stealing fossils, spying, bribing, lying, and even destroying worksites with dynamite! Cope got so mad, that he leaked Marsh’s attacks to the press, and the two became the focus of tabloid chaos.

In the aftermath, Marsh lost his job, his funding, and his collection was repossessed—leaving him powerless, penniless, and fossil-less. Cope faced similar problems. His reputation was ruined so he couldn’t find a buyer for his expensive fossil collection

Fun Facts
  • Everyone makes mistakes. At the beginning of the Bone Wars, Cope once placed the skull of his Elasmosaurus discovery on the creature’s tail, thinking it was the neck.

  • During the Bone Wars, OC Marsh found 80 new species to ED Cope’s 56. Together, they found over 130 new species!

  • The New York Herald’s headline for Cope’s exposé on Marsh was “Scientists Wage Bitter Warfare.” It was published January 12th, 1890.

  • Marsh was responsible for one of palaeontology’s most infamous missteps. He mistook an Apatosaurus skeleton for a new dinosaur and named it Brontosaurus. Since then, scientists have gone back and forth as to whether the Brontosaurus exists. It’s an error that still misleads people today!

Our Stegosaurus Friend

Out of this petty war, O.C. Marsh introduced the world to Stegosaurus—a dinosaur best known for its two rows of spike-like plates running down its back!

At first, Marsh was puzzled by these plates—thinking they joined together to create a protective shell or that they were wrist spikes, used for defence. Eventually, Marsh realized that the plates lined the animal’s back.

Even today, the purpose of these plates is a curiosity. In the past, palaeontologists believed they offered armour-like protection. However, nowadays, studies suggest they may have been too delicate. Instead, Stegosaurus uses its terrifying tail spikes for fighting off predators.

Other research suggests the back plates may have regulated the dinosaur’s body temperature. This is called thermoregulation—the same way humans sweat on hot summer days to cool down, these plates could hold or release heat so Stegosaurus could stay warm or cold. Further theories suggest that the plates could have also been used in mating, as identity markers, and even to scare other animals!

Wrap up!

Think about this...

Focus on Solving Problems

In science, it is important to always tell the truth and work hard to publish accurate information. Don’t get caught up in chaos and rivalry. 

Hold People Accountable

Even though Cope and Marsh are important scientists, they also disrupted the scientific community, damaged fossils, and published incorrect findings. In any field, even if people do ground-breaking work, that doesn’t erase bad behaviour. 

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

It’s through collaboration and careful study that palaeontologists can uncover new information about our beloved dinosaurs. Scientists should all uphold strong standards to ensure careful study and discovery comes before personal quarrels or fame.

Fun Facts
  • Stegosaurus was first discovered by O.C. Marsh in 1877, in Colorado, USA. The ROMs Stegosaurus was found in Utah, USA. However, Stegosaurus fossils have been unearthed across North America

  • Stegosaurus was a herbivore, meaning it would only eat plants and foliage.

  • On average, the Stegosaurus would grow around 4 metres tall and 9 metres long. Some could grow as large as a school bus!

  • The Stegosaurus’s brain was the size of a walnut.

  • Marsh noted a space by the Stegosaurus’ hip that could fit a brain. His vague note has led to misconceptions that the Stegosaurus had two brains.

  • It is believed that Stegosaurus’ travelled in herds, much like sheep, buffalos, and zebras!

ROMKids Challenge
Leatherback sea turtle.
Anime cuirass, small garniture for battle.
Suit of brigandine body armour with helmet.

From left to right: Theropod, 12868. Leatherback sea turtle in the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity. Anime cuirass, small garniture for battle, 931.49.19.1. Suit of brigandine body armour with helmet 갑옷, 912.36.1.A.

Calling all mini palaeontologists! When you next come to the ROM, begin your exploration in our dinosaur gallery to unearth our prehistoric pals for this ROMKids Challenge!

Can you spot our spiky Stegosaurus friend sneaking around our dinosaur gallery? How about its fearsome and fascinating neighbours from the Late Jurassic—the Barosaurus and Allosaurus

Stegosaurus is often called the “armoured dinosaur.” What types of armour can you find around the museum? Travel extra slow to find the shelled leatherback turtle in our biodiversity gallery. Trek over to the European gallery in search of the chivalrous Knight’s cuirass. Then, journey to Korea and see if you can find the brigandine armour.

Explore More

Authored by: Kiron Mukherjee

Authored by: Kiron Mukherjee