Saturday, October 5, 2013

Amargasaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week we will be checking out a sauropod with a truly striking style!  Introducing Amargasaurus cazauiAmargasaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Argentina during the early Cretaceous roughly 130 million years ago.  It only measured about thirty three feet long and like all sauropods, was a plant-eater.  It's name translates to "Amarga reptile"....not good enough of a description?   Sorry.  La Amarga is the name of the geological formation as well as the town near where this dinosaur's bones were discovered in Argentina.  "Amarga" in Spanish means "bitter". 

Amargasaurus cazaui life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.

The most unique and striking feature about Amargasaurus is the fact that it had two rows of upward-facing spines down its neck and part of its back.  These spines were actually parts of the animal's vertebrae!  The spines growing out of this dinosaur's neck were pointed and spike-like.  As they go further down the back, they become blunter and flatter.  Nobody is exactly sure what purpose these structures would have served in life.  It was most likely some sort of intraspecies display (when in doubt, just say display).  There may have been some sort of skin covering them or part of them forming a fin-like look.  Perhaps they were adorned with bright colors?  It is also possible that they could have been a defensive adaptation to deter large predators from biting the neck. 

Amargasaurus skeletal mount.

Other interesting features about Amargasaurus is that it actually had a relatively shorter neck proportionally when compared to other sauropod dinosaurs.  Like its relatives, however, it likely possessed a set of teeth concentrated at the front of the mouth that were peg-shaped.  This is a good mechanism for raking leaves and other foliage off of branches while feeding. Only part of the skull was found, unfortunately.  This is common for sauropods; big bulky bodies, tiny, delicate heads that are easily destroyed during fossilization.

That's it for this week!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page!  Have a creature in mind you want reviewed and painted?  Just ask!

References

Novas, Fernando E. (2009). The age of dinosaurs in South America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35289-7.

Upchurch, P., Barrett, P.M, & Dodson, P. 2004. Sauropoda. In: Weishampel, D.B., Dodson, P., & Osmolska, H. (Eds.). The Dinosauria (2nd Edition). Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 259–322.

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