Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camarasaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week we are taking a look at probably the most well documented and studied sauropod dinosaur, CamarasaurusCamarasaurus was a long-necked, plant eating dinosaur that lived in what is now the western United States during the Late Jurassic Period, about 150 million years ago.  There are currently four different species within the genus Camarasaurus according to experts.  The largest species, Camarasaurus supremus, measured about sixty feet long.  The species that is most well documented with the highest number of specimens, Camarasaurus lentus, was a bit smaller at around fifty feet long.  There is a possibility that C. supremus is actually just a large individual of C. lentus, however.  The other two species, Camarasaurus grandis and Camarasaurus lewisi were both smaller at around forty five feet long.  Camarasaurus as a genus, believe it or not, is actually on the small side considering that some other kinds of sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs) were the largest land animals of all time.  When it was alive, Camarasaurus would have co-existed with many other famous dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Allosaurus and Stegosaurus.

Life restoration of Camarasaurus lentus by Christopher DiPiazza.

The name, Camarasaurus translates to "chambered reptile" because of the hollow spaces within its vertebrae.  This is a feature common to many dinosaurs which allows the animal to be large but not too heavy.  Some dinosaurs (the birds) even utilized this adaptation to fly.

Skeleton of a sub-adult Camarasaurus on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Unlike some other sauropods, like Apatosaurus and Barosaurus, which had shorter front limbs than hind limbs, or Brachiosaurus which had longer front limbs than hind limbs, the front and back limbs of Camarasaurus were relatively equal in length.  Camarasaurus also had a much shorter snout than many other sauropods, giving its head a very distinctive boxy look.  Many Camarasaurus specimens have been discovered including some nearly complete skeletons.  There have even been multiple skeletons including adults and juveniles discovered in close proximity to each other which suggests that these dinosaurs probably lived in groups.

Join us next week for another prehistoric creature!  As always you are welcome to contact me in the comments below or on our facebook page to suggest a specific animal of your choosing!


Cope, E. D., 1877a, On a gigantic saurian from the Dakota eopoc of Colorado: Palaeontological Bulletin, n. 25, p. 5-10.

Foster, J. (2007). Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press.

McIntosh, J. S., Miller, W. E., Stadtman, K. L., and Gillette, D. G., 1995, The Osteology of Camarasaurus lewisi (Jensen, 1988): Brigham Young University, v. 41, p. 73-116.

McIntosh, J. S., Miles, C. A., Cloward, K. C., and Parker, J. R., 1996, A New Nearly Complete Skeleton of Camarasaurus: Bulletin of Gunma Museum of Natural History, n. 1, p. 1-87.

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