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He had a neck as long as a bus. “May be a record holder”

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According to the latest analysis, the neck of the herbivorous dinosaur Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum was up to 15 meters long. Researchers from the American Stony Brook University also showed that the bones in the neck of this animal were filled with air.

One species of herbivorous dinosaur that inhabited what is now China 162 million years ago may have had a neck the length of a bus. According to scientists, this is a new record holder in terms of the length of this part of the body.

Modern research

The fossilized remains of this dinosaur were discovered in 1987 in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China. Scientists named it Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum and described for the first time in a scientific paper from 1993. Even then it was suspected that the ancient reptile was characterized by a very long neck.

The latest analysis of its fossils appeared Wednesday in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. Paleontologists focused on comparisons M. sinocanadorum to other related dinosaur species.

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– Mamenchisaurs are important because they pushed the limits of how long a dinosaur’s neck could be. It seems that Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum with its 15-meter neck, it could be the record holder, said the study’s lead author Andrew Moore, a paleontologist and assistant professor at New York’s Stony Brook University.

To accurately measure the length of this body part, the researchers examined three preserved vertebrae and compared them with the neck bones of closely related dinosaurs.

“We happen to know who he was related to, which made some interesting comparisons. In this case, it was well nested evolutionarily in a lineage known to have had 18 cervical vertebrae. We can scale the comparisons to calculate the absolute length of the neck, added Moore.

The previous record belonged to a dinosaur named Xinjiangtitan. It was about 1.5 meters shorter than the case M. sinocanadorum.

Comparison of Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum and Xinjiangtitan species Andrew Moore

Filled with air

Scientists also noticed other interesting anatomical details of these massive dinosaurs. It turned out the bones of the neck M. sinocanadorum they were filled with air like birds, not marrow. CT scans showed that air made up 69 to 77 percent of the volume of the vertebrae.

“We suppose it’s an important mechanism for building such a long neck, because it was quite heavy,” Moore said.

Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum – art conceptJulia d’Oliveira

Critical to their survival

Until now, it was also believed that in the case of reptiles with such long necks, this part of the body was arranged like today’s swans. Moore added, however, that biomechanical studies revealed that the mamenchisaurs’ neck was elevated at an angle of about 20-30 degrees.

However, even with this angle and extreme neck length, the reptile’s head could be about 7.5 to 10 meters above the ground.

– They seem to have been well “designed” for collecting food. That’s what their long neck made possible. […] Why did mamenchisaurs have longer necks than their cousins? It’s hard to say, but it was definitely something central to their biology, Moore added.

Main photo source: Julia d’Oliveira

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