STL Science Center

STL Science Center

13 April 2016

What Do You Look Like

The problematic part of fragmentary fossil remains cannot be narrowed down to a single area of study. One thing that certainly suffers is our capability to interpret what an animal looked like as an entire organism. This has further implications in that body shape and size can tell us a lot about how an animal lived, how it may have eaten, how much it ate, and many, many more things. The knowledge of functional morphology of an animal outweighs simply having quality accurate illustration as it tells us what the dinosaur actually did, and looked like as well, with the anatomy that it had to work with. Fragmentary fossil skeletons therefore rely heavily on identification to a group from what is available and then that another animal in that group has had enough fossil remnants collected to inform us to make an educated decision about what the new and fragmentary dinosaur may have looked like. Amazonsaurus contained enough fossil skeletal elements that its affiliations as a sauropod and more specifically as a diplodocid have been accepted after description. We have been able to fill out the missing anatomy with informed hypotheses based on Diplodocus and other members of the group. One thing that has been estimated based on our knowledge of the fossils and its cousins is the size of Amazonsaurus. Extrapolating from the vertebrae and pelvis by comparing the number of elements and the sizes of elements with other dinosaurs we have estimated the length and height of Amazonsaurus. The sauropod was not a titanosaur but it was a notable sauropod, achieving a size slightly larger than an elephant and appreciably longer. Many illustrations of Amazonsaurus out on the internet show the tail coiled up or gently whipping around. This is a tie back to the relationship with Diplodocus, and may or may not have actually been indicative of the manner in which Amazonsaurus held its tail. To appreciate the overall length, at any rate, the tail has to be straightened out.

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