Sunday, April 7, 2013

Nigersaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Nigersaurus taqueti was a sauropod dinosaur that lived in what is now Niger, Africa, during the Cretaceous Period about 118 to 110 million years ago.  It measured only about thirty feet long which for a sauropod (largest kind of land animal of all time) is on the small side.

Nigersaurus taqueti life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza

Nigersaurus had a unique skull in that its mouth was wide and flat.  The skull actually resembles a vacuum cleaner head to be honest (if you google image search "vacuum cleaner head" and scroll down a bit, a picture of Nigersaurus actually will be one of the results.  No joke go try it).  Inside the mouth were hundreds (six hundred to be exact) of tiny chisel-shaped teeth perfect for clipping low plants which it ate.  Like sharks, whenever one of Nigersaurus' teeth broke off or got worn down, a new one was right underneath ready to take its place.  Nigersaurus had the most teeth of any sauropod known to date. 

Nigersaurus taqueti skeletal mount reconstructed by Tyler Keillor and Stephen Godfrey.  This skeletal mount was unveiled at the National Geographic headquarters in 2007, when Nigersaurus made its public debut.

Nigersaurus had a relatively short neck for a sauropod.  Because of this, combined with the fact that its skull would have been naturally held facing the ground, suggests it specialized in eating low growing plants rather than foliage off trees like some of its longer-necked relatives.


Close up of Tyler Keillor's Nigersaurus skull.  You can really get a idea of how unique and specialized this dinosaur truly was!

Special thanks to paleo-artist, Tyler Keillor for allowing me to use images of his awesome skeletal reconstructions.  As always if you have a dinosaur or other prehistoric creature you would like to see covered comment below or let me know on our facebook page!

References

Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Witmer LM, Whitlock JA, Maga A, et al. (2007) Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1230. [1] doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001230.

Wilson, J. A. and Sereno, P. C. (2005). "Structure and Evolution of a Sauropod Tooth Battery". In Curry Rogers, K., and Wilson, J.A. (eds.), The Sauropods: Evolution and Paleobiology, University of California Press, Berkeley, ISBN 0-520-24623-3.

2 comments:

  1. This Dinosaur had a shorter neck, yet, these photos(And Painting) show that it was longer then the neck on the Safari model seems shorter then reality.

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    1. The Wild Safari model's neck is probably too short I think.

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