Sauroposeidon

angolatitan
Angolatitan, of which Sauroposeidon may have been a close relative (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Sauroposeidon (Greek for "Poseidon lizard"); pronounced SORE-oh-po-SIDE-on

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Middle Cretaceous (110 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 100 feet long and 60 tons

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Extremely long neck; massive body; small head

 

About Sauroposeidon

For years, pretty much all we knew about the fancifully named Sauroposeidon derived from a handful of cervical vertebrae (neck bones) unearthed in Oklahoma in 1999.

These aren't just your garden-variety vertebrae, though--judging by their massive size and weight, it's clear that Sauroposeidon was one of the largest herbivorous (plant-eating) dinosaurs that ever lived, outclassed only by the South American Argentinosaurus and its fellow North American cousin Seismosaurus (which may well have been a species of Diplodocus). A few other titanosaurs, like Bruthathkayosaurus and Futalongkosaurus, may also have outclassed Sauroposeidon, but the fossil evidence attesting to their size is even more incomplete.

In 2012, Sauroposeidon underwent a resurrection of sorts when two other (equally poorly understood) sauropod specimens were "synonymized" with it. The scattered fossils of Paluxysaurus and Pleurocoelus individuals, discovered near the Paluxy River in Texas, were assigned to Sauroposeidon, with the result that these two obscure genera may one day be "synonymized" themselves with the Poseidon Lizard.

(Ironically, both Pleurocoelus and Paluxysaurus have served as the official state dinosaur of Texas; not only may these be the same dinosaur as Sauroposeidon, but all three of these sauropods may also have been the same as Astrodon, the official state dinosaur of Maryland. Isn't paleontology fun?)

Judging from the still-limited evidence available, what set Sauroposeidon apart from other enormous, elephant-legged, small-brained sauropods and titanosaurs was its extreme height.

Thanks to its unusually long neck, this dinosaur may have towered 60 feet into the sky--high enough to peek into a sixth-floor window in Manhattan, if any office buildings had existed during the middle Cretaceous period! However, it's unclear if Sauroposeidon actually held its neck to its full vertical height, as this would have placed enormous demands on its heart; one theory is that it swept its neck and head parallel to the ground, sucking up low-lying vegetation like the hose of a giant vacuum cleaner.

By the way, you may have seen an episode of the Discovery Channel show Clash of the Dinosaurs stating that Sauroposeidon juveniles grew to huge sizes by eating insects and small mammals. This is so far from accepted theory that it seems to have been completely made up; to date, there's absolutely no evidence that sauropods were even partly carnivorous. There is, however, some speculation that prosauropods (the distant Triassic ancestors of the sauropods) may have pursued omnivorous diets; perhaps a Discovery Channel intern got his research mixed up! (Or perhaps the same TV network that enjoys making up facts about Megalodon simply doesn't care what's true and what's false!)

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Strauss, Bob. "Sauroposeidon." ThoughtCo, Jun. 26, 2017, thoughtco.com/sauroposeidon-1092964. Strauss, Bob. (2017, June 26). Sauroposeidon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/sauroposeidon-1092964 Strauss, Bob. "Sauroposeidon." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sauroposeidon-1092964 (accessed January 20, 2018).