Dinosaurs: why the dinosaurs were so big

Science sauropods

Why the dinosaurs were so big

Characteristic of sauropods were their massive bodies and thick legs, as shown here in Brachiosaurus (illustration)

Characteristic of sauropods were their massive bodies and thick legs, as shown here in Brachiosaurus (illustration)

Source: Getty Images/500px

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The body mass of the largest mammal that ever lived on land, the mammoth, was taken as the limit for gigantism. Researchers have now discovered that dinosaurs such as Brontosaurus or Diplodocus became huge – many times over in their evolutionary history.

Dhe giantism of dinosaurs has evolved independently much more frequently than previously thought. According to a new study, such giant animals arose in 36 lineages with different characteristics and ecological niches over a period of 100 million years. For his study, Michael D’Emic from Adelphi University in Garden City (US state New York) used measurement data from fossil leg bones, from which he calculated the evolution of the body mass of almost 200 dinosaurs. He presents the results in Journal Current Biology.

All of the dinosaurs studied belong to the group of sauropods, which gave rise to such well-known genera as Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus. Characteristic of sauropods are a massive body on thick legs, a very long tail and neck with a relatively small head.

“It was previously thought that sauropods evolved their extraordinary size independently a number of times in their evolutionary history, but with the new analysis we now know that number is much higher,” D’Emic said in a statement from his university.

Brontosaurus eating tree, illustration.

A feeding brontosaurus (illustration)

Source: Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

A herd of Brachiosaurus and a flock of pterosaurs of the genus Pterodactylus (illustration)

A herd of Brachiosaurus and a flock of pterosaurs of the genus Pterodactylus (illustration)

Source: Getty Images/Stocktrek Images

As the limit for gigantism, the researcher chose the body mass of the largest mammal that has ever lived on land: the mammoth. “These largest of the largest sauropods were ecologically diverse, had differently shaped teeth and heads, and differently proportioned bodies, indicating that they occupied the ‘large body’ niche somewhat differently,” D’Emic said.

More about dinosaurs and archaeology

July 5, 2022, USA, New York: The skeleton of a gorgosaurus is on display at Sotheby's in New York.  The skeleton of a Gorgosaurus will be auctioned in New York at the end of July.  Photo: Julia Nikhinson/AP/dpa +++ dpa picture radio +++

HANDOUT - Artist's reconstruction of the feathered pterosaur Tupandactylus, showing the feather types along the bottom of the headcrest: dark monofilaments and lighter-coloured branched feathers.  Credit: Bob Nicholls

The tail of the find was about ten feet long and had sharp spikes

The archaeological site of Kemune in the dry area of ​​the Mosul reservoir.

drought and melting glaciers

There are also no traits that only characterize those sauropods that exceed the size of land mammals, the study author writes. Climate probably plays a minor role in evolution, since there is no relationship between global mean temperature and body mass in sauropods. Hence the new research question of why some lineages developed gigantism while others did not.

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