Downsized dinosaurs

Island living may have led to miniature versions of giant dinosaurs

Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that grew to a length of about 20 feet and weighed a ton or so. Sounds big, right? In fact, these dinos were pretty puny in the grand scheme of things.

 

Brachiosaurus grew to a length of about 85 feet and weighed between 33 and 88 tons.

 

Found in Germany, the newly discovered species is a type of sauropod. Sauropods were large dinosaurs and ate only plants. The new species is related to the much bigger Brachiosaurus, which grew to a length of about 85 feet and weighed between 33 and 88 tons. A brachiosaur’s thighbone alone was taller than basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. Some types of sauropods were even bigger than Brachiosaurus.

Paleontologists from the University of Bonn in Germany found 650 bones of the new species, which has not yet been named. Altogether, the bones came from 10 or so individuals.

Because the bones were so small, it looked like they might have come from young sauropods. A closer look at growth marks on the bones, however, suggested that some of the creatures were fully grown when they died.

Why were these dinosaurs so small? The researchers suggest that it had something to do with the lay of the land. There’s evidence that central Europe was a group of islands at the time that the German sauropods were alive.

It’s helpful for animals to be small when they live on an island, where there’s usually less food to eat and less space to roam than on the mainland. A recently discovered, especially small species of human relatives also lived on an island (see http://sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20041103/Note2.asp ).

But, despite the similar setting, the minidinos were still way bigger than even the biggest people alive today. 

More Stories from Science News for Students on Fossils