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Short-necked sauropod dinosaur discovered

03 June 2005

The fossil of a new dinosaur species, a short-necked sauropod, has been discovered in Patagonia, Argentina.

A sauropod dinosaur called Cetiosaurus © The Natural History Museum, London 2005

A sauropod dinosaur called Cetiosaurus © The Natural History Museum, London 2005

Sauropods typically had a huge body, a long neck and stout legs. They were plant-eating dinosaurs and lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods.

The new dinosaur, named Brachytrachelopan mesai, had an unusually short neck for a sauropod. And, at less than 33 feet (10 meters) long, it was also very small for a member of that group.

Brachytrachelopan mesai's short neck shows it ate low-growing plants, unlike its longer-necked relatives who could reach high into the trees.

The new dinosaur belongs to a group of sauropods with relatively short necks called dicraeosaurs. The fossil's presence in Argentina indicates a rapid radiation and dispersal of dicraeosaurs in the Late Jurassic period in the Southern Hemisphere, after the separation of Gondwana from the northern continents by the late Middle Jurassic.

Reported on the National Geographic website, Oliver Rauhut, a palaeontologist with the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology in Munich, Germany, said, 'It is by far the shortest neck reported in any sauropod'.

Angela Milner, dinosaur expert at the Natural History Museum added “this new discovery shows that sauropods were more adaptable than we previously thought. We usually think of sauropods as growing bigger and having longer necks through time, but here is one line of evolution that did just the opposite”.

The German and Argentinean researchers report the discovery in the journal Nature. The full news article is on the National Geographic website.