Sauropods and Relatives

By | September 9, 2016

These lumbering giants were the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth. Amazingly long necks let them reach far higher than other plant eaters could, making it possible to feed on treetops as giraffes do today. But they needed pillarlike limbs to support their immense weight, and, unlike most dinosaurs, they usually had to walk on all fours.

FAMILY FACT FILE

Key features
■ Small heads and large bodies
■ Long, flexible necks
■ Long, whiplike tails

When
Sauropods first appeared in the Late Triassic, almost 227 million years ago, and died out at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.

Brachiosaurus (brackee-oh-SORE-uss)

Brachiosaurus-1


When: 150–145 million years ago (Late Jurassic)

Fossil location: USA

Habitat: Plains

Length: 75 ft (23 m)

Diet: Treetop leaves and twigs of conifers

One of the largest sauropods, Brachiosaurus weighed an incredible 33–55 tons (30–50 metric tons)—nearly 12 times more than an African elephant. Brachiosaurus’s long neck helped it to feed at heights of more than 50 ft (15 m), which is twice as high as any giraffe can reach.

Brachiosaurus-head

Brachiosaurus used its spoon-shaped teeth to snip leaves from the tops of conifers, tree ferns, and other trees. It ate about 440 lb (200 kg) of leaves and twigs a day.

Barapasaurus (buh-RAH-pah-SORE-uss)

barapasaurus


When: 189–176 million years ago (Early Jurassic)

Fossil location: India

Habitat: Open woodland

Length: 59 ft (18 m)

Diet: Vegetation

Barapasaurus probably had a short head. Its neck was supported by a series of long bones and its limbs were slender. Fossils of its teeth show that unlike other sauropods, this creature had sharp teeth with sawlike edges.

Camarasaurus (KAM-a-ra-SORE-uss)

camarasaurus


When: 150–140 million years ago (Late Jurassic)

Fossil location: USA

Habitat: Open woodland

Length: 59 ft (18 m)

Diet: Tough tree leaves

Numerous Camarasaurus fossils have been found in the United States, making it the best-known sauropod. Its broad and sturdy neck helped it feed on vegetation much lower than that eaten by the larger sauropods. Some of its hollow bones had large air chambers connected to its lungs. These chambers helped reduce body weight and also gave Camarasaurus its name, which means “chambered lizard.”

LARGE HEAD

camarasaurus-skull

Mamenchisaurus (ma-MEN-chee-SORE-uss)

mamenchisaurus


When: 155–145 million years ago (Middle to Late Jurassic)

Fossil location: China

Habitat: Deltas and forested plains

Length: 85 ft (26 m)

Diet: Vegetation

Mamenchisaurus was named after the Chinese village where its fossils were found. It had one of the longest necks of any known animal. Its skull was less pointed than that of Brachiosaurus, and its shoulders were lower and smaller.

LONG NECK

mamenchisaurus-skeleton

Nineteen long bones supported Mamenchisaurus’s neck, which could move freely from side to side. This made it easier for the creature to reach around.

Vulcanodon (vul-KAN-o-don)

vulcanodon


When: Early Jurassic

Fossil location: Zimbabwe

Habitat: Forested plains

Length: 23 ft (7 m)

Diet: Vegetation

Vulcanodon was so named because its first fossils were found in rocks near volcanoes. Like other sauropods, Vulcanodon moved slowly on land. Its stubby, pillarlike limbs were useful in supporting its heavy body, but were not meant for running.

Anchisaurus (ankee-SORE-uss)

anchisaurus


When: 190 million years ago (Early Jurassic)

Fossil location: USA

Habitat: Woodland

Length: 6. ft (2 m)

Diet: Leaves

Anchisaurus was a distant cousin of the sauropods. Like most dinosaurs, it walked only on its hindlimbs. It had a narrow snout and fed mainly on plants but may sometimes have eaten small animals too.

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