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The Family of Sauropod Dinosaurs

Updated on December 27, 2012

How to spot a sauropod

Generally the sauropods are one of the easiest dinosaur groups to recognize. They were the largest dinosaurs ever to roam the planet. Their bodies were massive, with four sturdy legs and clawed feet. They also had long necks and tails, but small heads.

The Brachiosaurus is a fine example of a sauropod. It was a gigantic creature which measured up to 23 meters long and 12 meters high. The four heavy legs were used for support and its front feet had claws similar to reptiles. Its long neck was completed at the top with a small head.

Sauropod means 'reptile feet' and, although most sauropods had heavy, elephant-like legs and feet, they did have reptile-like claws on their toes. The Camarasaurus was another fine example which had a long tail, and could raise itself up on its hind legs and use its clawed front feet to attack its predators. It also used its long, whiplash tail to protect itself, just like several other sauropods.

One of the most common features of the sauropods was their long neck, skinny necks. They fed on the leaves of treetops, just similar to the giraffes of today. They sometimes stood on their hind legs to make themselves more taller. The Mamenchisaurus dinosaur had the longest neck of all the sauropods.

Many paleontologists used to think that sauropods lived in shallow swamps where the water would support their great bulky body. However, there are now many clues that point to them living on land. Their fossils are primarily found on land, their skeletons were light but very strong and their feet were just about the right shape for walking on land. If they had attempted to walk on the bottom of lakes or rivers, they would have sunk into the soft mud below the water.

Sauropods had weak teeth and they were in the shape of spoons. It was once thought that they could only eat soft weeds from lakes and swamps, but scientists now know that sauropods like the Diplodocus probably used their spoon-like teeth to rake leaves from the highest trees.

Many sauropods lived during the middle and the end of the Age of Dinosaurs, between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The Cetiosaurus was believed to be one of the earlist sauropods to live on Earth. This dinosaur had a much heavier backbone than the Opisthocoelicaudia, and which appeared much later, and had a backbone with large holes in it. This made it quite light for its size compared to other sauropods.

So to identify a sauropod, the creature must walk on all four feet, have long skinny necks and clawed feet just like reptile feet.


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