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What were sauropods?

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What were sauropods? Sauropods were a group of dinosaurs that were all built to the same general design. They all had a short barrel-shaped body to accommodate the huge gut needed to digest their vegetable diet, a very long neck and tail, a comparatively tiny head and peg-like teeth for grazing. The other important feature of the sauropods is that they were all enormous.

They were extremely heavy, and because they lived in large herds they churned up the ground as they moved about. It is still possible to see the damage caused by their movements in the ancient rock layers where fossils of the sauropods have been found.

Why did the sauropods have such a long neck and tail?

The long neck of the sauropods is thought to be an adaptation to help the animals feed on tall trees, like the modern giraf fe. The whole structure of these dinosaurs is a very clever piece of engineering, because their long neck, which was usually held out horizontally, was balanced by the weight of the tail.

The vertebrae were shaped to allow the attachment of powerful muscles and rope-like tendons and ligaments, which held the whole structure together like a suspension bridge. Despite the great length of the neck and tail, they were not as JL flexible as we might think. They were usually stretched out almost in a straight line.

Which was the biggest sauropod of all?

Scientists cannot agree on the maximum size of these giant dinosaurs. Brachiosaums is usually said to be the biggest, weighing 77 tones. A recently described dinosaur, provisionally called Ultrasaurus, is thought to have been about 30 m long and to have weighed as much as 130 tones. This would make it by far the heaviest land animal ever to have existed. Even the mighty blue whale is small in comparison to these huge prehistoric creatures.

What happened to the Brontosaurus?

Most people have heard of the Brontosaurus, which is the sauropod described in many books and films. This term is no longer used, however. It was discovered that the fossil originally called Brontosaurus had already been described, and was called Apatosaurus, latter name is the one now officially recognized by scientists.

Which was the tallest sauropod?

Brachiosaurus used to be considered the tallest of the dinosaurs. It was 25 m long, but it stood more erect than other sauropods because its front legs were so much longer than the rear ones. Its head was very small, but it reached up to 13 m above the ground.

Recently, another dinosaur called Sauroposeidon has been described. This huge animal stood 17.2 m high, making it three times the height of the tallest giraffe. Each of the vertebrae in its neck was more than 1 m long, and its bones were filled with tiny air cells which helped to reduce their weight.

4 Brachiosaurus was one of the tallest, most massive of all land-dwelling animals. It had particularly large front legs, and a comparatively short tail.


Much smaller than the true giant sauropods, Saltosaurus was protected from predators by armored plates across its back.

How were sauropods armored?

Most of the great sauropods relied on their huge size to prevent attacks from predators. Saltosaurus was not as large as many of the other sauropods, but as compensation for this its back was covered with armored plates. These plates were ridged and packed close together to provide extra protection. The fossils of Saltosaurus found so far are incomplete, so we do not know exactly how far this armor extended over its body. Most of the sauropods were well able to defend themselves with a large clawed toe on the inside of the front foot, and they probably also trampled any attackers, using their great weight.

Did sauropods have any natural enemies?

It is unlikely that a predator could bring down an adult sauropod because of its huge size. However, the young sauropods may have been more at risk.
Sauropods such as Diplodocus had a large claw on the front foot, and were probably able to rear up and use this claw to defend themselves. Some scientists believe that they could swing their huge long tail as a weapon. It would have struck the attacker with great force, like an enormous whip.

How did sauropods digest their food?

We do not know what the structure of the sauropod digestive system looked like, but there are some clues about it in fossil specimens. These show that there were large numbers of smooth, well-worn stones inside the animal's body. Scientists think that these were held in a muscular gizzard organ, like that of a bird. The stones churned and ground the plant food to aid digestion.

Tags: dinosaurs, paleontology

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 15 December '11

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