Whenever I hear the phrase “animals with long necks,” my mind thinks instantly of giraffes. They are known that they have long necks for reaching out to the upper canopy of trees. However, when I hear “long neck dinosaurs,” my mind takes an entirely different track. I start to think of those giant Sauropod dinosaur skeletons and prehistoric swamps where they lived. There were many different kinds, but how many and why did they evolve to have such a long neck?
So, what are long neck dinosaurs? Long neck dinosaurs are Sauropods, a species of dinosaur that lived in the Mesozoic Era. They are noted to have developed lengthy necks, up to 30 feet (9.1 meters), tree trunk legs, and relatively small heads. Their prolonged neck served to help them eat vegetation from the tops of trees. All Sauropods were herbivores. The long neck Sauropods include Argentinosaurus, Alamosaurus, Ultrasaurus, Camarasaurus, Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Dreadnoughtus.
The long neck Sauropods existed for approximately 140 million years that span across the Mesozoic Era, making them one of the most successful dinosaurs that lived in all three periods of the Mesozoic. Let’s take a deeper look at these Sauropods, understand better why they had developed long necks, and more about the characteristics and habitat of these dinosaurs. Read on to learn more!
What is a Dinosaur with a Long Neck Called? All About Sauropods
The long neck dinosaurs are called Sauropods. The word Sauropoda comes from the Greek word meaning “lizard-footed.” It was coined and used for the first time in 1878 by a paleontologist named O. C. Marsh.
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Wikipedia describes Sauropods as having “very long necks, long tails small heads (relative to the rest of their body), and four thick pillar-like legs. They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land”.
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Fossil specimens of Sauropod dinosaurs are present all over the world, so it’s clear that they had lived in every corner of the earth, and paleontologists estimate that the earliest fossils are from the early Jurassic and continue through the late-Cretaceous period.
Long Neck Dinosaurs – Sauropod Anatomy Details
Sauropods were dinosaurs with great body mass. You can tell just by looking at the skeletons how massive these dinosaurs were. According to different theories, we can estimate that for the larger mature species, it may have reached a mass bodyweight of 80 metric tons (80,000 kg). The length of their body can reach more than 110 feet (33.5 meters). Even the smallest of these dinosaurs had a length of more than 20 feet (6.1 meters).
They had tree trunk sized tails, with the ability to bear such a heavyweight that it’s speculated that some of the dinosaurs could stand on its rear two legs, possibly for reaching more vegetation in trees, but also for fighting against predators. One interesting study about Sauropod tails (Source) suggests that dinosaurs like Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus and Diplodocus could whip their tail and make a loud, even supersonic, cracking sound. It could be used as a weapon against predators or to scare them away.
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All of the Sauropods were plant-eaters, and recent studies on their jaws are show that they did not chew their food well. Instead, and they had powerful enzymes in the stomach to help digest their food and eating more than 100,000 calories a day.
Sauropods could replace their teeth quickly. It took approximately 14 days to 64 days to completely replace a tooth. As Sauropods were herbivores, the shape of their teeth was flatter or at least cone-shaped, used for grinding vegetation. If you are interested to know more about dinosaur teeth, both herbivore and carnivore, check out my article on this website, “What’s the Value of a Real Dinosaur Tooth (Single, On Jawbone)?”
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An interesting thing about Sauropod anatomy – their brain was more than 26 feet (7.9 meters) above their heart. It is also amazing to know that the weigh of a Sauropod’s heart was more than 200 kg (441 pounds), which is more than the weight of three normal human adult beings. They tried to keep their necks low so that the heart can pump blood easily though to their brain.
Because sauropods had such long necks, so they had a long windpipe with additional air sacs to help their lungs. All the sauropods were oviparous (egg-laying). It’s estimated that newly born Sauropods needed only 23 years or less to grow and become a full-sized 80 metric ton sauropod.
Some of them had developed some protective advancements like armor and tails with spikes, similar to other herbivore dinosaurs like Stegosaurus. If you want to know more about how dinosaurs protected themselves with armor and weapons, see my article to learn more! How Did Dinosaurs Protect Themselves? (Armor, Weapons)
Brontosaurus – The Well-Known Sauropod That Lost Its Name, Then Reclaimed It
One of the most well-known Sauropod dinosaurs, the Brontosaurus (meaning “thunder-lizard”), has an interesting history that has just been resolved in recent years. Skeletons of these giant Brontosaurus dinosaurs were found in the 1800s, but there was some mixing of the skeletons of Brontosaurus and the Apatosaurus (meaning “deceptive-lizard”), a similar Sauropod species. Both dinosaurs belong to the Diplodocids in scientific classification (taxonomy).
Well, in the 1970s, scientists realized that the skeletons built earlier had mixed the head of the Brontosaurus with the Apatosaurus. Therefore, they declared that the Brontosaurus did not exist. It was an Apatosaurus.
Fast forward to 2015, and scientists determined that the Brontosaurs is actually unique and different enough to be its own classification of a dinosaur. (Source)
The Brontosaurus excelsus is different from the Apatosaurus by having a higher neck and one that is less wide.
Why Did Dinosaurs Have Long Necks, and What is the Biggest Long Neck Dinosaur?
With the advancement of technology and recent improvements in the field of bioinformatics, many areas of research expand and develop. That goes as well for the study of dinosaurs. The paleontologist and other fossils lovers nowadays not only look for skeletons of dinosaurs, but they are focusing on what features and habitats of the dinosaurs had for all categories of discovered dinosaurs.
About That Long Neck
That brings us to the question of why did the Sauropods evolve such long necks? According to LiveScience (Source) https://www.livescience.com/27376-how-dinosaurs-grew-longest-necks.html, they have three possible theories. First, so that they could reach the high canopy tops of trees to eat, second, they could eat the vegetation from side to side like modern-day geese. And third, for fighting with other Sauropods during the mating process. It’s interesting that in present-day giraffes, we see these same characteristics and use of the long neck.
When it comes to answering which Sauropod had the longest neck, there is no definite conclusion. It is probably because the number or size of the neck vertebrae cannot always give the accurate size of the neck. So, here are the top three contenders for the longest neck dinosaur:
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One of the dinosaurs that had one of the longest necks was the Brachiosaurus (meaning arm-lizard). The length of a Brachiosaurus neck could reach as much as 30 feet (xx meters), making the total length of the dinosaur (neck, body, and tail) up to 69 feet (21 meters). An interesting feature in the anatomy of the Brachiosaurus was that the two forelimbs were longer than the hindlimbs. The Brachiosaurus that was found in Colorado, USA, was specifically named Brachiosaurus altithorax (meaning deep chest) by its full name.
Other Brachiosaurus fossils have been found in the US states of Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, although the fossils coming out of Colorado have been the most complete skeletons found.
Another contender for the longest neck was the Diplodocus (meaning double-beam). Many of the sources listed this dinosaur as having the longest neck.
Diplodocus was lived at the end of the Jurassic period. They were one of the dinosaurs who ate stones along with the vegetation to crush the food in their stomach during digestion. Most of the Diplodocus fossils are found in the Morrison Formation in Colorado, USA. The length of the Diplodocus neck in one of the most well-known fossils (Diplodocus carnegii found in Sheep Creek, Wyoming) had a neck that was at least 21 feet (6.5 meters) long.
The Mamenchisaurus was a Sauropod dinosaur that lived in China. The fossil skeleton found in Sichuan, China. The neck of the Mamenchisaurus was 32 feet long, and the total dinosaur measured an astonishing 90 feet (27.4 meters) from head to tail.
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List of Long Neck Dinosaurs
The lizard-foot Sauropod dinosaurs were the giants of the dinosaur family. It’s not a complete list by any means, but here are some of the better-known Sauropods:
● Argentinosaurus – was the known animal of all time they had their life in the late Cretaceous period. The main living area for them was today’s Argentina. They had more than 50 tons of weight, and they had their body length from 30 to 39 meters.
● Alamosaurus- was one of the largest dinosaurs of North America that lived in New Mexico. They weighed almost 30 tons and length more than 30 meters.
● Ultrasaurus- was known as great lizards. They lived 110 million years ago.
● Camarasaurus- was also known as chambered lizards. They lived between 145 to 155 million years ago. They were 23-meter-long, and the weight of them was 51 tons.
● Titanosaurids- were also known as “Titanic lizards.”
● Apatosaurus- was almost 22-meter-long and weighed between 16 to 13 tons.
● Opisthocoelicaudia- lived a late cretaceous period like 70 million years ago. They were one of the smallest of their kind having a length of just 11 meters.
● Haplocanthosaurus- lived 152 to 155 million years ago. They were quite small compared to their fellow species. The total length for them was 12 meters, and they got a total weight of about 14 tons.
The Sauropods are exciting dinosaurs to study and discover because as soon as you start learning about them and imagine how they lived, you are shocked at how large they actually were. They were tall and long, but now we are finding that some had developed armor, that their tails could be used a whip, and that some species could stand on its hind legs. That’s not just a sleepy swamp dinosaur!
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