March 29, 2023

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Meet the dinosaur with a record-breaking neck longer than a school bus

(CNN) The plant-eating sauropod that lumbered around what is now China about 162 million years ago had a neck about 10 feet longer than a typical school bus — and the longest of any known dinosaur.

The creature’s 49.5-foot (15.1-meter) neck would have allowed it to stand in one place and lift up the surrounding vegetation—increasing the amount of food it consumed while conserving energy.

The fossilized remains of the dinosaur, called Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum, were discovered in 1987 in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region and first described in a 1993 scientific paper. The dinosaur is named after the joint Chinese-Canadian team that unearthed the fossil.

In a new analysis of the fossil published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology on Wednesday, paleontologists used a computerized topographic survey that was not widely available three decades ago to compare M. sinocanadorum with other related sauropods discovered. In the last years.

“Mamenchisaurids are important because they pushed the limits of neck length, and were the first line of sauropods to do so. With a 15-meter neck, it looks like Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum might be the record holder – at least until something longer is discovered.” driving Author Andrew Moore, a paleontologist and assistant professor at Stony Brook University in New York, said in a statement.

The paleontologists were able to deduce the length of the neck by studying the three preserved vertebrae of the specimen and comparing them to the neck bones of closely related dinosaurs.

“We actually knew who it was related to, which makes good comparisons. In this case, it’s evolutionarily well nested within a lineage that we know has 18 cervical (cervical) vertebrae,” Moore explained. “We can scale up from the comparisons to know the absolute length of the neck.”

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Longest full neck Scientists have documented that it belonged to a fossilized dinosaur called Xinjiangtitan, Moore said, and was about 5 feet (1.5 meters) shorter than the neck of M. sinocanadorum.

Hollow bones ease the burden

The study also revealed Interesting details about these huge dinosaurs. Similar to the lightweight skeleton of birds, the bones of M. sinocanadorum were filled with air rather than marrow, which is characteristic of most mammalian bones. CT scans showed that air makes up 69% to 77% of the volume of the vertebrae.

“This is supposed to be an important mechanism for building such a long neck because that would get very heavy,” said Moore.

The longest complete neck that scientists have documented belongs to a fossilized dinosaur named Xinjiangtitan (above). The researchers think M. sinocanadorum (bottom) is even taller than that.

While the position of some types of sauropod It may have been characterized by an erect neck in a swan-like fashion, Moore said, biomechanical studies suggest that Mamenchisaurid’s neck was elevated at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees above horizontal.

However, even at this relatively shallow angle, the neck Maximum length still means that the animal’s head can reach a height of 24.6 to 32.8 feet (7.5 to 10 metres) above the ground.

According to the study, the evolutionary adaptations of sauropods — massive size and a plant-based diet — have no modern equivalent. But the lineage of these long-necked dinosaurs was so successful that different types of sauropods emerged early in the age of the dinosaurs and thrived until their extinction 66 million years ago.

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“They seem well designed to be efficient food gatherers and that’s what the neck allows them to do… plant themselves in one place, eat the vegetation around them, and then move only when necessary.”

“As for why among the sauropods, Mamenchisaurus has comparatively longer necks? Perhaps that would be more functional… It’s hard to say but it’s clearly something fundamental to their biology.”