Sauropods had the Longest Necks of any Land Creature

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"Sauropods had the Longest Necks of any Land Creature"
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A new British study examines why certain types of dinosaurs had such long necks, namely, the sauropods. The sauropods were a group of long-necked herbivore dinosaurs that roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

"Sauropods were one the most successful groups of land animals of all time," said National Geographic in 2011. This type of dinosaur emerged 200 million years ago and are believed to have died out 65 million years ago.

Most people probably envision these kinds of dinos, such as the Brontosaurus, using their long necks to stretch towards the tallest trees to claim their green meals as this is how they have historically been depicted. Now some researchers are looking at their makeup examining why these necks were so elongated.

Experts say that the sauropods' necks could stretch up to 50 feet in length, much longer than any other living land creature has in history.  Giraffes, which are typically perceived as having extremely long necks, do not even come close to these prehistoric sauropods.

So why was this type of dinosaur neck so long?

Researchers looked at this concept, examined the sauropods and contrasted to other long-necked creatures, including the nearest living relatives, birds and crocodilians.

What the group of scientists involved in the study said they found was sauropods had an excess amount of neck vertebrae, up to 19, which could support such a long neck. Additionally, they believe that air made up 60 percent of a sauropod neck, described as being some as "light as birds' bones".

Experts indicated that their body and bone structure was designed for efficiency, with muscles, tendons and ligaments positioned to hold the massive neck up.  Their large torsos and four-legged structure also helped for balance and support.

"They were really stupidly, absurdly oversized," said researcher Michael Taylor, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England, reported Live Science (courtesy of Fox News). "In our feeble, modern world, we're used to thinking of elephants as big, but sauropods reached 10 times the size elephants do. They were the size of walking whales."

It is believed that sauropods likely breathed like birds do which would have possibly facilitated getting oxygen through to their lungs.

"The problem of breathing through a long tube is something that's very hard for mammals to do. Just try it with a length of garden hose," Taylor told Live Science.

According to Science World Report, the researchers do not believe that the world will ever see such a long necked creature again.

The full study was published online in the Feb. 12, 2013 edition of the journal Peer J, according to media reports.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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