Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sauropod Gigantism

There's a fascinating paper available at PLOS Collections exploring the physiology and lifestyle of the largest sauropod dinosaurs. The sauropods included the largest terrestrial animals that have ever lived, from the Jurassic diplodocids, through the late Jurassic/early Cretaceous brachiosaurs to the Cretaceous titanosaurs, some of which may even have exceeded the famously huge blue whale in length. The sheer size of such animals raises problems when we consider how they lived. Early theories, such as a submerged lifestyle in swamps, have long been discredited, but the issues remain unresolved. Just how did such vast creatures feed, breed and move around?

The paper is available for download in PDF format and explores the problems of sauropod physiology and motion through various disciplines, with input from a number of specialists. In the overview it explains that:

This new PLOS Collection discusses major efforts by evolutionary biologists and
paleontologists to understand sauropods as living animals and to explain their evolutionary
success and uniquely gigantic body size. The articles address these questions from the
widest selection of disciplinary viewpoints, including those of ecology, engineering,
functional morphology, animal nutrition and palaeontology.

It's quite some reading, but anyone interested in dinosaur evolution would benefit from taking the time to go through it.

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