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Due to the confusion over various specimens of Mamenchisaurus and their
interpretation (has Dale Russell ever published on the "new" specimen Larry
Dunn refers to?), let us lose that taxon, for the sake of argument, and
substitute Diplodocus in its stead. O.K.?
Several years ago, I did some math. This statement is the most hilarious
thing to appear on this list, just ask my bank. Anyway, after prodigous
effort, I determined that a Diplodocus, given a 20 foot horizontal arc of
neck-swing could conceivably cover one acre of browsing area by walking only
one-quarter of a mile (please check and correct me if this is wrong). In
addition, it could reach OVER obstructions like tree trunks, etc. This would
be walking in a straight line, if possible, with an absolute minimum of energy
expenditure. And eating a LOT of good stuff like ferns,ginkoes, and Von
Sholly's occasional offal.
On the other hand, we have the scenario where Diplodocus must "target" its
food source above it, in this case conifers, I presume, and lift it's anterior
body (several tons) at no small energy expense for several mouthfuls of rather
low grade feed. This labor would then be repeated over and over as other
sources are targeted.
The energy expended in rearing up a multi-ton body surely exceeds that of
moving air down a twenty foot trachea.
Now I'm not saying that Diplodocus and kin never did the bipedal lunch once
in a while, I don't want to be an absolutist on this matter. But I can't
imagine designing a more efficient low-level browser at this scale. Dan