How dinos carried their enormous weight

Scientists have solved a lingering mystery by discovering how sauropod dinosaurs – like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus – supported their gigantic bodies on land.

A team led by the University of Queensland and Monash University used 3D modeling and engineering methods to digitally reconstruct and test the function of the foot bones of different sauropods.

Dr Andréas Jannel conducted the research during his doctoral studies at UQ’s Dinosaur Lab and said the team found that the hind legs of the sauropods had a pad of soft tissue under the “heel”, cushioning the foot to absorb their enormous weight.

“We have finally confirmed a long suspected idea and are providing, for the first time, biomechanical evidence that a pad of soft tissue – particularly in their rear feet – would have played a vital role in red uction of locomotor pressures and bone stresses,” said Dr. Jannel.

“It is mind-blowing to imagine that these giant creatures could have supported their own weight .”

Sauropods were the largest land animals that roamed the Earth for over 100 million years.

They were first thought to be semi-aquatic with water buoyancy supporting their massive weight, a theory disproved by the discovery of sauropod tracks in terrestrial deposits in the middle of the 20th century.

Dr. Olga Panagiotopoulou of Monash University has said sauropods were also thought to have feet similar to those of a modern-day elephant.

“Popular lifestyle – think Jurassic Park or Going for walks with Dinosaurs – often depicts these behemoths with almost cylindrical, thick, resembling feet t to elephants,” Dr. Panagiotopoulou said.

“But when it comes to their skeletal makeup, elephants are actually ‘on tiptoe’ on all four feet, whereas sauropods have different foot configurations in their front and hind feet. of “high wedge heels” at the back supported by a large soft fabric pad.”

UQ Associate Professor Steve Salisbury said it was because sauropods and elephants had different evolutionary origins.

“Elephants belong to an ancient order of mammals called proboscideans, which first appeared in Africa some is approximately 60 million years old in the form of nondescript small herbivores,” said Associate Professor Salisbury.

“ In contrast, sauropods – whose ancestors first appeared 230 millions of years ago – are more closely related to birds.

“They were agile two-legged herbivores and only later in their evolution did they walk on all fours.

“Essentially, the changeover to becoming the largest land animal to walk the earth appears to have involved adapting a heel pad.”

Researchers now plan to use 3D modeling and engineering methods to make further discoveries.

“I want to apply a similar method to a whole limb and include additional soft tissues such as muscles, which are rarely preserved in fossils,” said Dr Jannel.

“We are also excited to study the limbs and feet of other prehistoric animals.

“This should no us to answer different questions about the biomechanics of extinct animals and to better understand their environmental variations, their movements and their way of life.”

Related Articles

Back to top button