Monday, March 9, 2015

Qijianglong: Prehisroric Animal of the Week

It is time to review another exciting new discovery just published this year.  Make way for Qijianglong guakr!  Qijianglong was a plant-eating sauropod dinosaur that lived in what is now China, during the Jurassic Period, about 160 million years ago.  It had an extremely long neck that made up about half of it's fifty-foot long body length.  The genus name, Qijianlgong, translates to "Qigiang Dragon" in reference to the district in which its remains were discovered.  Many dinosaurs from China have been named as dragons.  Qijianglong, in particular reminded paleontologists of a traditional Chinese dragon because of its extremely long neck, giving it a superficially serpentine appearance when they were digging it of the earth.

Qijianglong life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.

Qijianglong is a great find because it is one of the few sauropod skeletons, where the skull was actually preserved. (or partially preserved)  It is very common to find headless sauropod skeletons in the field.  This could be because the skull of a sauropod is very delicate and small compared to the rest of the body and is usually the most likely part to deteriorate, float away, or get eaten by scavengers after the dinosaur died.  In fact, one of the most famous dinosaur mistakes in history revolves around souropod skulls. (or lack thereof)

Qijianglong skeletal mount on display at the Qijiang Museum in China.

So what's the deal with that long neck?  We have reviewed some long-necked dinosaurs on here before but never anything as extreme as this!  Sauropod necks have confused scientists ever since they were first discovered.  It is most likely that they used these necks to better reach food in the form of leaves at the tops of trees, similar to a giraffe today.  However, unlike the giraffe, there were many different kinds of sauropods, often living in the same habitat  together, throughout the Mesozoic.  Maybe this was one of the driving forces for sauropods to evolve so many different neck lengths, in an evolutionary attempt at developing niches.  We also know, thanks to studies done on the neck vertebrae of Qijianglong, that the neck was not really able to bend from side to side that much.  It could, however, angle the neck upwards at the base, if it wanted to.  This makes sense if it was browsing for leaves at treetops.  

That's all for this week!  As always feel free  to comment below or on our facebook page!


Xing, L; Miyashita, T; Zhang, J; Li, Daqing; Ye, Y; Sekiya, T.; Wang F; Currie, P (2015). "'A new sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China and the diversity, distribution, and relationships of mamenchisaurids'". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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