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Updated on April 22, 2013

Brachiosaurus was a species of sauropod dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period around 145 million years ago in what is now western North America. It was discovered in 1900, and described by Elmer S. Riggs in 1903 based on fossils found near the Colorado River. The name Brachiosaurus means "arm lizard", from the Greek brachion ("arm") and sauros ("lizard"). At the time of it's discovery Brachiosaurus was considered the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Brachiosaurus had a proportionally long neck, small skull, and large size. All of these attributes are common in sauropods. However, unlike most sauropods, Brachiosaurus' neck may have been held straight up in the air, and it's front legs were longer than it's back legs. This gave the animal an almost Giraffe-like appearance.

Brachiosaurus human size comparison
Brachiosaurus human size comparison

Feeding and lifestyle

Brachiosaurus was a herbivore. It's long neck was designed to reach the tops of trees that no other animal in it's environment could. The length of Brachiosaurus was estimated to be 85 ft and they could have weighed anywhere from 25-40 tons. That's as much as 4-6 adult African Elephants. Brachiosaurus lifestyle consisted of eating all the time in order to maintain it's huge mass. From the time they are first hatched, the babies about the size of a small dog, would have had to start eating immediately in order to reach their adult size which probably would have taken 10-15 years. They had to grow up in a hurry because while they were small they were most vulnerable to viscous attacks from Allosaurs or Ceratosaurs. By the time dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus grew to a certain size they had no natural predators.

The high arch and the low arch of Brachisaurus' neck
The high arch and the low arch of Brachisaurus' neck

Neck and posture

Brachiosaurus and it's relatives had an inclined back, due to their long front legs. If the neck came out the body in a straight line, it would still be elevated.The maneuverability of the neck was reconstructed as lower by Stevens and Parrish, while other researchers like Paul and Christian and Dzemski argued for more bendable necks. There is also debate as to whether or not Brachiosaurus really would have had its head raised in the same way a Giraffe does. Upon close analysis the vertebrae of Brachiosaurids it's revealed to be individually spool-shaped, and not wedge-shaped as seen in the modern giraffe neck curves, usually displayed in Brachiosaurus. How far the neck can bend in life is determined on how the pectoral girdle or shoulder blades are supposed to be placed on top of the ribcage. If the pectoral girdle was placed higher up on the ribcage it would result in a "sub-horizontal" position. Lower down would indicate a "sub-vertical" position.

Possibility of a trunk?

There are some disagreements about the placement of Brachiosaurus nostrils. It was assumed for some time that the nostrils were placed at the top of a hollow crest, snorkeling in deep water to support the animal's weight. However, it has been confirmed that Brachiosaurus were terrestrial animals. The top of the head was true, considering the absence of openings near it's snout. Most paleontologists believe it was a resonating chamber and the nostrils were located further down towards the snout. There is even speculation of the presence of a prehensile trunk on Brachiosaurus. This would give it an almost elephantine appearance, and possibly change the way sauropod dinosaurs are viewed. It could also be the reason why the openings on top of the skull are so massive. The nostrils must have had an external fleshy appearance, of that much is certain.


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    • Capedium profile image

      Capedium 5 years ago from Texas.

      I doubt this kind of animal ever lived.. Though your theory is pretty convincing..

    • ChrisIndellicati profile image

      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks for the feedback. I wrote this one because I noticed your comment in the fan mail i'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Brachiosaurus was my favourite dinosaur. I still get goosebumps whenever I see the scene in Jurassic Park when Alan Grant and Ellie encounter the Brachiosaurus for the first time. I would have loved to have seen one alive. Voted up.