On the News | Zigzagging backbones helped turn dinosaurs into giants @ Science

On the News @ Science


Zigzagging backbones helped turn dinosaurs into giants


“Sauropods were colossal creatures, reaching up to 50 meters in length and weighing as much as 77 metric tons—14 times the weight of modern-day African elephants. And the necks of some of these dinosaurs made up much of their entire body lengths —up to 15 meters in the aptly named Supersaurus. Now, scientists have suggested a new reason why these dinos might have been able to grow so massive: special “toothed” bones in their backs that fit together neatly like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The new work helps researchers understand the growth of these behemoths by revealing just how their backbones could withstand the enormous stresses imposed by their massive body weight.

A left side view of the joint where the neural arch and centrum contact in a trunk vertebra of the sauropod Spinophorosaurus nigerensis. By John Fronimos (@source)

Scientists—and curious schoolchildren—have long wondered why sauropods were so big and how they got that way. The larger the body, the harder it is to support, especially when much of its weight is hovering in the air. Over the years, scientists have noted many adaptations that helped sauropod bodies carry their massive weight without injury. For example, the dinosaurs had weight-bearing pillarlike legs, small heads, and bones peppered with air sacs. To further explore how sauropods wore their weight, vertebrate paleontologist John Fronimos—a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—started studying the fossil remains of Spinophorosaurus nigerensis, a sauropod with vertebrae as high as half a meter. When Fronimos was examining the massive fossils while visiting a museum in Spain, he came across something unusual: deep, zigzagging lines in the vertebrae where the top half of the backbone contacts the bottom half. (…)” READ MORE

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Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)