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 actually on the small side.
|My reconstruction of Nigersaurus as it unknowingly disrupts a nesting Kaprosuchus. (or something very similar since these two taxa were actually separated by a few million years.)|
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 six hundred tiny chisel-shaped teeth, the most teeth in any known sauropod, all lining the front of the mouth. This arrangement was perfect for clipping low-lying vegetation, like a lawn mower. Like any dinosaur, whenever one of Nigersaurus' teeth broke off or got worn down, a new one was right underneath ready to take its place.
|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 according to how its bones fit together, suggests it specialized in eating low growing plants rather than foliage off trees like some of its longer-necked relatives. It's also worth noting, that Nigersaurus had eye sockets that were
proportionally large and were positioned at the highest point of its
skull, when it was in a neutral pose. When alive you can see that it
would have been able to see almost entirely around it at once, and would
only need to move its head the slightest bit to either side, in order
to see directly behind it or in front of it. This may be an adaptation
to keep lookout for predators without having to stop eating. Since
sauropods weren't particularly fast runners, Nigersaurus may have used
its long tail as a weapon, or perhaps lived in herds for protection
|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 twitter or facebook!
Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Witmer LM, Whitlock JA, Maga A, et al. (2007) Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1230.  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.