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The Sauropods

The Sauropods: Evolution and Paleobiology

Kristina A. Curry Rogers
Jeffrey A. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    The Sauropods
    Book Description:

    Sauropod dinosaurs were the largest animals ever to walk the earth, and they represent a substantial portion of vertebrate biomass and biodiversity during the Mesozoic Era. The story of sauropod evolution is told in an extensive fossil record of skeletons and footprints that span the globe and 150 million years of earth history. This generously illustrated volume is the first comprehensive scientific summary of sauropod evolution and paleobiology. The contributors explore sauropod anatomy, detail its variations, and question the myth that life at large size led to evolutionary stagnation and eventual replacement by more "advanced" herbivorous dinosaurs. Chapters address topics such as the evolutionary history and diversity of sauropods; methods for creating three-dimensional reconstructions of their skeletons; questions of sauropod herbivory, tracks, gigantism, locomotion, reproduction, growth rates, and more. This book, together with the recent surge in sauropod discoveries around the world and taxonomic revisions of fragmentary genera, will shed new light on "nature's greatest extravagances."

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93233-3
    Subjects: Paleontology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Monoliths of the Mesozoic
    (pp. 1-14)
    Jeffrey A. Wilson and Kristina Curry Rogers

    George gaylord Simpson (1987:71) expressed his impressions of the well-known North American sauropodDiplodocusin the form of a poem to his mother, written while he was studying Mesozoic mammals at Oxford University:

    Oh! Thou imbecile reptileDiplodocus!

    Whoever created so odd a cuss?

    With a tail like a neck,

    And a neck like a tail

    I wonder,by heck,

    If you ever do fail

    To remember your ends,

    And when danger impends

    Do stand still,which is bad,

    or still more,run tail firs

    Or indeed run both ways,which is rather worst!

    Simpson adorned his poem with a...

  5. ONE Overview of Sauropod Phylogeny and Evolution
    (pp. 15-49)
    Jeffrey A. Wilson

    This year marks the one hundred sixty-fourth anniversary of Richard Owen’s (1841) description of the first sauropod—Cetiosaurus, the “whale lizard”—on the basis of vertebrae and limb elements from localities across England. Although these remains “had been examined by Cuvier and pronounced to be cetaceous” (Buckland 1841:96), Owen (1841:458–459) demonstrated the saurian affinities ofCetiosauruson the basis of several features, including the absence of epiphyses (growth plates) on caudal vertebrae (fig. 1.1). He differentiatedCetiosaurusfrom other extinct saurians on the basis of its large size and characteristics of its vertebrae (see Upchurch and Martin 2003:215). Owen...

    (pp. 50-103)
    Kristina Curry Rogers

    Titanosaur body fossils have been recovered from every landmass except Antarctica and are present in Upper Jurassic to Upper Cretaceous strata. Their unique, wide-gauge trackways extend their record back still farther, to the Middle Jurassic (Santos et al. 1994; Wilson and Carrano 1999; Day et al., 2002; Wilson and Upchurch 2003). In spite of their extensive temporal and geographic ranges, their fossil record remains relatively poor, with most genera based only on fragmentary and/or disassociated postcranial remains. Presently, Titanosauria includes over 30 currently accepted genera representing more than one-third of sauropod diversity, and new titanosaur genera are being erected more...

  7. THREE Phylogenetic and Taxic Perspectives on Sauropod Diversity
    (pp. 104-124)
    Paul Upchurch and Paul M. Barrett

    The sauropoda represent one of the most diverse and geographically widespread dinosaurian radiations. After their origin during the Late Triassic, sauropods increased rapidly in diversity, and acquired a nearly global distribution by the Middle Jurassic. Diversity appears to peak in the Late Jurassic, at which point sauropods were very abundant and dominated many terrestrial environments. Although sauropod diversity apparently declined very rapidly in the Early Cretaceous, several lineages remained as a significant component in many faunas, and the titanosaurs underwent a major radiation during the mid-or Late Cretaceous.

    These changes in diversity took place against a backdrop of profound geological...

    (pp. 125-156)
    Paul M. Barrett and Paul Upchurch

    Sauropodomorph dinosaurs were incredibly successful animals, by any standard. They attained high levels of alpha-taxonomic diversity, with more than 100 valid genera known currently (Galton 1990; McIntosh 1990; Galton and Upchurch 2004; Upchurch et al. 2004) and were the dominant animals, in terms of numerical abundance and biomass, in many Middle and Late Mesozoic terrestrial biomes (e.g., Young 1951; Dodson et al. 1980; Russell et al. 1980; Galton 1986; Dong 1992).

    Phylogenetic evidence, and the known stratigraphic distributions of these animals, suggests that the Sauropodomorpha originated in the early Late Triassic, though there are also recent reports of Middle Triassic...

  9. FIVE Structure and Evolution of a Sauropod Tooth Battery
    (pp. 157-177)
    Paul C. Sereno and Jeffrey A. Wilson

    During the jurassic, sauropod dinosaurs rose to predominance among vertebrate herbivores, in terms of both species diversity and biomass (e.g., Romer 1966; McIntosh 1990). Their perceived decline on northern landmasses during the Cretaceous has been linked to the evolution of tooth batteries in ornithischian herbivores (e.g., Lull and Wright 1942; Ostrom 1961; Bakker 1978; Lucas and Hunt 1989). On southern landmasses, in contrast, sauropod diversity increased during the Cretaceous (Weishampel 1990; Hunt et al. 1994), and a newly discovered southern sauropod, the rebbachisauridNigersaurus taqueti, is now known to have evolved a complex tooth battery (Sereno et al. 1999).


  10. SIX Digital Reconstructions of Sauropod Dinosaurs and Implications for Feeding
    (pp. 178-200)
    Kent A. Stevens and J. Michael Parrish

    In recent years, sauropods have been interpreted primarily as quadrupedal herbivores, with sympatric taxa differentiated in their feeding behavior presumably according to their dentition and feeding height in a quadrupedal stance (e.g., Fiorillo 1998; Upchurch and Barrett 2000). In order to generate detailed hypotheses concerning sauropod paleoecology, it is essential to start with as accurate a reconstruction of their body plans as can be afforded from their fossils. An accurate rendering of the life posture of a sauropod is necessary in order to determine the feeding envelope for each taxon in its conventional quadrupedal stance. We review here the body...

  11. SEVEN Postcranial Skeletal Pneumaticity in Sauropods and Its Implications for Mass Estimates
    (pp. 201-228)
    Mathew J. Wedel

    One of the signal features of sauropods, and one of the cornerstones of our fascination with them, is their apparent efficiency of design. The presacral neural spines of all sauropods have a complex of bony ridges or plates known as vertebral laminae (fig. 7.1; abbreviations used in the figures are listed below). In addition, the vertebral centra of most sauropods bear deep fossae or have large foramina that open into internal chambers. The laminae and cavities of sauropod vertebrae are often considered to be adaptations for mass reduction (Osborn 1899; Hatcher 1901; Gilmore 1925) and have been important in studies...

    (pp. 229-251)
    Matthew T. Carrano

    Sauropod dinosaur locomotion, like that of many extinct groups, has historically been interpreted in light of potential modern analogues. As these analogies—along with our understanding of them—have shifted, perspectives on sauropod locomotion have followed. Thus early paleontologists focused on the “whalelike” aspects of these presumably aquatic taxa (e.g., Osborn 1898), reluctantly relinquishing such ideas as further discoveries began to characterize sauropod anatomy as more terrestrial. Although this debate continued for over a century, the essentially terrestrial nature of sauropod limb design was recognized by the early 1900s (Hatcher 1903; Riggs 1903). Aside from a few poorly received attempts...

  13. NINE Steps in Understanding Sauropod Biology: THE IMPORTANCE OF SAUROPOD TRACKS
    (pp. 252-284)
    Joanna L. Wright

    Sauropod tracks are spectacular and have captured public imagination since they were first recognized and described in the first half of the twentieth century. Roland T. Bird publicized the bathtub-sized tracks in the Glen Rose Formation (Texas) at sites such as Paluxy River and Davenport Ranch inNatural History(Bird 1939, 1944) soon after he had first described them, and dinosaur tracks were as popular then as they have ever been. Bird’s research on sauropod tracks led him to a number of conclusions that were radical for the time. He noticed that these trackways seldom showed tail drag marks (Bird...

    (pp. 285-302)
    Luis M. Chiappe, Frankie Jackson, Rodolfo A. Coria and Lowell Dingus

    Thousands of sauropod egg clutches, some containing eggs with exquisitely preserved embryonic bone and integument, have been discovered in the Late Cretaceous nesting site of Auca Mahuevo (Chiappe et al. 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004; Dingus et al. 2000; Chiappe and Dingus, 2001; Coria et al. 2002) and adjacent localities in northwestern Patagonia, Argentina (fig. 10.1). Five expeditions to this extraordinary area (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002) have yielded a wealth of information for understanding the prehatching development, the nesting structure, the egg morphology and malformation, and the reproductive behavior of these dinosaurs. Cranial characters of the in ovo embryos...

    (pp. 303-326)
    Kristina Curry Rogers and Gregory M. Erickson

    Sauropod hatchlings may have been only a meter long from head to tail (Chiappe et al. 1998, 2001) and weighed in at less than 10 kg (Breton et al. 1985; Weishampel and Horner 1994), while many adult sauropods attained sizes rivaling those of extant whales (Appenzeller 1994; Seebacher 2001; Erickson et al. 2001). This range of sizes is greater than for any other dinosaurian lineage, and includes the largest terrestrial vertebrates ever to inhabit the planet. In addition to this dramatic range of ontogenetic size variability, sauropod sizes vary interspecifically (fig. 11.1). The Romanian titanosaurMagyarosaurushas been dubbed the...

    (pp. 327-334)
    Jeffrey A. Wilson and Kristina Curry Rogers

    John S. (“Jack”) McIntosh has been a leading student of sauropod dinosaurs for well over half a century. During the course of his long career, Jack has been influenced by legendary paleontologists such as Barnum Brown, Richard Lull, Friedrich von Huene, and Alfred Romer, and he continues to influence young dinosaur paleontologists.

    Jack’s two main interests, sauropod dinosaurs and the history of North American paleontology, intersect in the badlands of the western United States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope discovered and describedCamarasaurus,Diplodocus,Allosaurus,Stegosaurus, and many other dinosaurs. During...

    (pp. 335-336)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 337-349)