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Re: Sauropods Then and Now



> Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 22:07:13 -0400 (EDT)
> From: MariusRomanus@aol.com
> 
>> This was one of the things of I was thinking of.  But I was also
>> thinking of the opinion occasionally expressed on the list, based
>> (maybe) on new discoveries concerning sauropod neck mechanics, that
>> dipoldocid necks might be used to slurp up aquatic vegetation while
>> the animal stood on shore.
> 
> You know... some time ago, a buddy of mine said, as a joke, that
> before all is said and done, we'd be putting sauropods right back in
> the swamps.
> 
> I laughed back when he said that....
> 
> I'm no longer laughing.

Maybe you should be.  As I pointed out in my previous message, there
are several good, strong and independent lines of evidence, both
biomechanical and taphonomic, indicating that most sauropods were
primarily terrestrial.  It makes no sense to overturn all that on the
basis of one tenuous paleoecological hypothesis based on the result of
a widely disputed study.

By the way, has anyone considered how much shoreline would be needed
to support a herd of diplodocids?  It's much harder to imagine an
environment providing that much shoreline than the same amount of
terrestrial feeding habitat.  Someone should run some numbers for
this.

Finally, some weasel words :-)  First, I said "primarily terrestrial"
above, because of course lots of terrestrial animals spend _some_ time
in water; some, like elephants, spend a lot of time in water, but are
nevertheless functionally terrestrial.  Second, sauropods are a big,
diverse group, and I suppose it's perfectly possible that _some_
members would have been more aquatic in their habits than others, just
as otters live in rivers despite Mustelidae being a generally
terrestrial clade.  Since it was found in a mangrove, _Paralititan_ is
probably the lead contender for this lifestyle.  However, it dosn't
look particularly likely, as "the distal surface of the preserved
metacarpal is rectangular and flattened, suggesting phalangeal
reduction or absence on this digit" (Smith et al. 2001), whereas you'd
expect broad feet on a semiaquatic animal that was going to spend a
lot of its time of soft ground.

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor  <mike@miketaylor.org.uk>  http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
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