Evolution Of Giants: Why Did Sauropods Get So Big?
October 31, 2013

Evolution Of Giants: Why Did Sauropods Get So Big?

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

On October 30, a new PLoS Collections launched, featuring research on the complex evolutionary cascade theory that made the unique gigantism of sauropod dinosaurs possible. New sauropod research articles published in PLoS ONE are featured in the Collection.

The largest terrestrial animals ever to roam the Earth, sauropod dinosaurs exceeded all other land-dwelling vertebrates in both mean and maximal body size. Sauropods evolved many features seen in other large terrestrial animals, such as upright, columnar limbs and barrel-shaped trunks. They also developed some very unique features, such as the extremely long necks and diminutive heads they are famous for.

Scientists have long recognized the unique gigantism of the sauropods as an important problem in the evolution of vertebrates, raising questions as to why no other land-based lineage has ever reached this size, how these dinosaurs functioned as living animals, and how they were able to maintain stable populations over distinct geological periods.

Major efforts by evolutionary biologists and paleontologists trying to understand sauropods as living animals, as well as to explain their evolutionary success and unique body size are discussed in the new PLoS Collections.

The Collection articles address these questions from the standpoint of a variety of disciplinary viewpoints, including ecology, engineering, functional morphology, animal nutrition, and paleontology. One section, for example, highlights studies that investigated sauropod mobility and posture, to better understand the reasons for their extremely long necks.

"You could explain gigantism just by looking at the trait of having many small offspring. But our model shows us there were probably several factors," says Dr. P. Martin Sander, a professor at the Steinmann Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Palaeontology at the University of Bonn, Germany.