Thursday, October 31, 2013

[Paleontology • 2013] Sauropod Gigantism: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach


Image: Kent A. Stevens, University of Oregon


Sauropod dinosaurs were the largest terrestrial animals to roam the Earth, exceeding all other land-dwelling vertebrates in both mean and maximal body size. While convergently evolving many features seen in large terrestrial mammals, such as upright, columnar limbs and barrel-shaped trunks, sauropods evolved some unique features, such as the extremely long neck and diminutive head they are famous for.

The unique gigantism of sauropod dinosaurs has long been recognized 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 time periods.

This new PLOS Collection discusses major efforts by evolutionary biologists and paleontologists to understand sauropods as living animals and to explain their evolutionary success and uniquely gigantic body size. The articles address these questions from the widest selection of disciplinary viewpoints, including those of ecology, engineering, functional morphology, animal nutrition and palaeontology.




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