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Rapetosaurus osteoderms

From: Ben Creisler
New online paper:

Kristina Curry Rogers, Michael D'Emic, Raymond Rogers, Matthew Vickaryous, 
Amanda Cagan (2011)
Sauropod dinosaur osteoderms from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. 
Nature Communications (2011) 2: article 564 
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1578 
Osteoderms are bones embedded within the dermis, and are common to select 
members of most major tetrapod lineages. The largest known animals that bear 
osteoderms are members of Titanosauria, a diverse clade of sauropod dinosaurs. 
Here we report on two titanosaur osteoderms recovered from the Upper Cretaceous 
Maevarano Formation of Madagascar. Each osteoderm was discovered in association 
with a partial skeleton representing a distinct ontogenetic stage of the 
titanosaur Rapetosaurus krausei. Combined, these specimens provide novel 
insights into the arrangement and function of titanosaur osteoderms. Taphonomic 
data confirm that Rapetosaurus developed only limited numbers of osteoderms in 
its integument. The adult-sized osteoderm is the most massive integumentary 
skeletal element yet discovered, with an estimated volume of 9.63 litres. 
Uniquely, this specimen possesses an internal cavity equivalent to more than 
half its total volume. Large, hollow
 osteoderms may have functioned as mineral stores in fecund, rapidly growing 
titanosaurs inhabiting stressed environments.
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