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PALEONEWS:Newly Discovered Dinosaur May Have Been Biggest
Yahoo! News Science Headlines
Tuesday November 2 12:21 PM ET
Newly Discovered Dinosaur May Have Been Biggest
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Recently discovered dinosaur remains are of a
creature so tall that it could have looked into a sixth-floor window and
may have been the largest creature ever to walk the earth,
paleontologists at the University of Oklahoma said Tuesday.
Weighing 60 tons, standing 60 feet tall and boasting the longest neck
in the fossil record, the creature probably made the earth shake when it
walked, prompting scientists to name it Sauroposeidon, which translates
as ``Earthquake God Lizard''.
``It's truly astonishing. It's arguably the largest creature ever to
walk the earth,'' paleontologist Richard Cifelli told Reuters.
Cifelli headed a team that examined bones unearthed in southeastern
Oklahoma in 1994. Their findings are due to be presented in the March
issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The neck bones of the creature are each about four feet long, Cifelli
said. When they were first cataloged, Cifelli said he thought they might
the trunks of prehistoric trees. But closer examination revealed that
they belonged to a larger relative of the better-known Brachiosaurus,
which was about 45 feet tall.
``The neck on our creature is about a third longer than that of the
Brachiosaurus,'' said Mathew Wedel, a paleontology graduate student who
researched the creature for Cifelli. ``It's a lot longer and a lot more
Sauroposeidon was giraffe-like in shape, with a short body and long
neck, but was 30 times larger than the largest giraffe ever known.
Scanning the fossils with computerized equipment at the university's
hospital revealed the massive bones were filled with tiny air cells that
lightened the load the creature had to carry.
It would be very hard to imagine that a neck could get much longer and
still function, Cifelli said. ``No matter how small the dinosaur's
brain was, just lifting it up was a challenge,'' Cifelli said. ``It's
remarkable how large the bones are.''
The length of the creature's neck also may give clues about how it
lived in the environment of its times, about 110 million years ago.
Sauroposeidon inhabited the delta of a massive river system, perhaps a
prehistoric version of the Mississippi, when Oklahoma was the shore of a
Gulf of Mexico that covered most of Texas. Sauroposeidon may have eaten
the leaves from the tops of trees. As large as it was, the creature was
unlikely to have many predators, Cifelli said.
The species was among the last of the large dinosaurs.
``This guy is an Edsel,'' Cifelli said. ``He's an old design. By this
time, that body plan is just not working anymore. By the time this guy
comes along, they are dying out in North America. He is pretty much the
last of his kind.''
Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)