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Episode 486: How Dinosaurs Got So Big

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Episode 486: How Dinosaurs Got So Big

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Episode 486: How Dinosaurs Got So Big. Sauropods were the longest, tallest, and heaviest animals to every walk the Earth. What adaptations did they have to get so large? And which dinosaurs were the largest in other groups?

News:

  • Sauropods grew to be the largest land animals of all time with many special adaptations that helped them reach “super giant” sizes source
  • Bruhathkayosaurus may have been the heaviest land animal of all time with weight estimates from 80–190 tonnes source
  • Sauroposeidon may be the tallest sauropod (and land animal) of all time—with Giraffatitan proportions bringing it to about 17m (56ft) tall source
  • Sauropod babies were already built to grow large source
  • It’s not just sauropods that had special adaptations to grow so large—Theropods had them too source
  • Early sauropod ancestors evolved very rapid growth before they evolved gigantic sizes source
  • A new study found 36 unique times that sauropods evolved gigantism source
  • A hadrosaur long thought to be an island dwarf turned out to just be young and was still growing source

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The dinosaur of the day: Uberabatitan

  • Titanosaur sauropod that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now Minas Gerais, Brazil (Serra da Galga Formation)
  • Looks like other titanosaurs, giant and robust, with a long neck, long tail, small head, walked fairly upright on all fours
  • Titanosaurs had tails that were flexible and strong
  • Had robust bones
  • One of the best known titanosaurs (at least one bone for each part of the skeleton found)
  • More than 60 bones were found
  • Fossils found include neck, back, and tail bones, pelvic bones, and limb bones
  • No skull found
  • Fossils originally thought to belong to at least three individuals, but a later study found they belonged to at least five individuals and at least one was a juvenile
  • One of the individuals is considered to be a giant
  • Estimated to grow up to 85 ft (26 m) long
  • Other individuals estimated to be between 33 and 49 ft (10 and 15 m) long
  • Like other sauropods, grew quickly and without interruption early on, and then as it matured grew in cycles, with periodic slowdowns
  • Type species is Uberabatitan ribeiroi
  • Genus name means “Uberaba titan”
  • Genus name refers to Uberaba, the city near where the fossils were found
  • Species name is in honor of Luiz Carlos Borges Ribeiro, “director of the Centro de Pesquisas Paleontológicas Lewellyn Price, for his consistent support of palaeontological research in Minas Gerais State”
  • Named in 2008 by Leonardo Salgado and Ismar de Souza Carvalho
  • Fossils were found at a road cut along a highway
  • All fossils found in one quarry
  • Fossils collected over four years
  • Had unique features on the tibia and fibula, like a protuberance (something that stuck out) on the tibia that formed a joint with the fibula
  • Holotype includes leg bones and ankle bone (used to include more fossils, but unclear if those belong to the same individual)
  • Another specimen, known as “DGM Series A” may be Uberabatitan or may be a close relative
  • Two teeth may belong to Uberabatitan, and one of them is the largest titanosaur tooth found so far, with a crown measuring 2.4 in (6.2 cm) high. Not known for certain if those tooth are from Uberabatitan
  • Those teeth are chisel-like and slender
  • A study in 2015 found bone pathologies in Uberabatitan
  • Includes two fused mid-tail vertebrae and a healing fracture, also in the middle of the tail
  • Had bony overgrowth in the form of lumps
  • Could be from arthritis, an inflammatory disease, or an internal infection
  • Lived in an area with plains, rivers, and small temporary ponds
  • Other dinosaurs that lived around the same time and place include titanosaurs such as Baurutitan, Caieiria, and Trigonosaurus, dromaeosaurs such as Ypupiara
  • Other animals that lived around the same time and place include crocodylomorphs and mollusks

Fun Fact:

Two groups of dinosaurs that shrank by at least two orders of magnitude over time are the group that led to birds and alvarezsaurs.

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