Dinosaurs Inside and Out

Growing Bones

What can paleontologists tell about the lifestyle of a large herbivore (sauropod) from its fossil bones?

The bones of giant dinosaurs like the Diplodocus tell us a great deal about this herbivore. Its legs were thick and widely spaced, acting as pillars to hold up the cross beams of its shoulder bones and hip girdle. The vertebrae across the hip were fused for strength, allowing it to support an almost 11-ton (10-metric-ton) body weight. The legs ended in short, broad feet (similar to an elephant’s) with claws on the back foot used as an anti-slip device. The bone structure limited the dinosaur to a normal walking pace of approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per hour, although they could have moved modestly faster for short periods of time. Thus, they were thought to be large, slow moving, four-legged walkers. In addition, the large adult sauropods were probably relatively immune from predators because of their large size.


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