Suuwassea was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period, about 145 million years ago, in what is now Montana, USA. Its genus name translates from the Native American Crow language to "Ancient Thunder", one of the coolest dinosaur genus names out there. From snout to tail, Suuwassea would have measured between 45 and 50 feet long.
|Suuwassea emilieae reconstruction in watercolors by Christopher DiPiazza|
Suuwassea was a member of the sauropod order of dinosaurs. Sauropods were the iconic group of dinosaurs that are defined by their large bodies, long necks, and small heads. North America during the late Jurassic was literally shaking with sauropod dinosaurs. Giants such as Apatosaurus, Brontosaurus, Barosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, and Brachiosaurus, all were thriving there. Suuwassea stands out among them based on where it falls in the sauropod family tree, however. It belonged to the family within sauropods, called dicraeosauridae. Dicraeosaurids have mostly been discovered in South America and Africa. Suuwassea is the only known member from North America. Dicraeosaurids also tended to be smaller compared to other sauropods with proportionally shorter (relatively speaking) necks. Despite living among many other sauropod relatives, Suuwassea may have utilized these differences in anatomy to exploit slightly different foods, like lower-growing plants that may have been more cumbersome for something like the much larger Diplodocus or Brachiosaurus to easily get to.
|Neck vertebra from Suuwassea on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philladelphia, PA.|
Suuwassea possessed vertebra on its neck and back that had longer neural arches than what is typically seen in other groups of sauropods. This would have given it a slight hump-like appearance in life. Some of the later dicraeosaurids, like Amargasaurus and Bajadasaurus, would push that feature to extremes, sporting long spine-like structures growing from their vertebra!
That is all for this week! As always feel free to comment below!
Harris, J.D. and Dodson, P. (2004). "A new diplodocoid sauropod dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Montana, USA." Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 49 (2): 197–210.
Sander, P. Martin; Christian, Andreas; Clauss, Marcus; Fechner, Regina; Gee, Carole T.; Griebeler, Eva-Maria; Gunga, Hanns-Christian; Hummel, Jürgen; Mallison, Heinrich (2011-02-01). "Biology of the sauropod dinosaurs: the evolution of gigantism". Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 86 (1): 117–155.
Sereno, Paul C.; Wilson, Jeffrey A.; Witmer, Lawrence M.; Whitlock, John A.; Maga, Abdoulaye; Ide, Oumarou; Rowe, Timothy A. (2007-11-21). "Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur". PLOS ONE. 2 (11): e1230.