STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 May 2012

Highway Bridge-Like Dinosaurs

In 1952 in Sichuan, China, a dinosaur was found in the path of a highway. Like a giant opossum in the road it blocked construction until someone could be called to figure out what it was and move it safely. 14 incomplete vertebrae were discovered and the studied skeleton that was removed was named Mamenchisaurus constructus. Clever, getting the construction site of the highway into the name there. Twenty years later another species with 19 neck vertebrae was discovered and named M. hochuanensis. The list does go on, Mamenchisaurus is a genus made up of seven species, but the general agreeing attribute of all of the Mamenchisaurus finds was an extremely elongated neck. The tail is also fairly long, though nowhere near as  exaggerated as the neck is; the neck making up half the length of the animal in the same way that the tail of Sinosauropteryx made up half of that dinosaur's length. These peaceful giants lumbered through the Jurassic Chinese plains for nearly 25 million years, as a genus. This week will be filled with discovering what their world was like, what adaptations they may have had, and what exactly they needed that enormous neck for.

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