10 Long-Necked Facts About Mamenchisaurus
China’s overstuffed with awesome dinosaurs, and today we’re taking a look at one of their most famous.
1. Mamenchisaurus Necks Would’ve Made Giraffes Feel Self-Conscious
Mamenchisaurus necks approaching 30 feet in length have been documented, and one poorly-known species—M. sinocanadorum—is believed to have had nearly 50 feet separating its head from its shoulders. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? Regulation NFL goalposts have an 18’6” gap between their uprights. The largest (reliably) documented great white shark measured 19.5 feet from end to end. The average giraffe boasts a 6-foot neck. Meanwhile, yours is probably only around 10-12 inches long. How pathetic…
2. Something Nasty Happened to One Poor Specimen’s Tail
As paleontologist Dave Hone notes on his wonderful blog, a Mamenchisaurus skeleton that currently resides at China’s Chengdu University of Technology has an unnatural-looking growth above one of its tail vertebrae. This, he explains, was caused by either a broken and re-healed backbone injury or “an infection that spread inside the tail causing the build-up of ossified tissue.”
3. An Especially Huge Species Was Asia’s Largest Dinosaur
We still don’t know which dino was the world’s all-time biggest, but at an estimated 115 feet in length, Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum clearly deserves to be part of this discussion.
4. Another Species Had An Odd Spinal Column
Mamenchisaurus youngi looks like it’s in desperate need of a Jurassic chiropractor. Paleo-artist Gregory S. Paul points out that the vertebrae above this dinosaur’s hips are fused together in a strange, V-shaped orientation. [PDF] Therefore, M. youngi might have had to permanently hold its tail at an upturned, awkward-looking 20-degree angle.
5. Mamenchisaurus Featured “Spatula-Shaped” Teeth
These broad chompers were ideal for gathering bundles of leaves in huge gulps, unlike the pencil-shaped teeth of such massive herbivores as Diplodocus, a dino which nimbly stripped them from narrow branches.
6. At Least One Variety Had a Clubbed Tail
Although Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis rocked a small, bony knob at the end of its tail, some scientists claim that this thing would’ve been practically useless as a weapon. Interestingly, M. houchanensis was far from the only Asian sauropod (“long-necked dino”) to have had one. Omeisaurus and Shunosaurus were also card-carrying members of the prestigious “Tail-Club Club”.
7. The Czech Republic Boasts an Animatronic Mamenchisaurus
Next time you’re in Prague, be sure to visit this guy at the Harfa DinoPark (and don’t forget the kids)!
Speaking of cool displays, NYC’s American Museum of Natural History temporarily housed some reconstructed Mamenchisaurus organs. Sadly, this exhibit’s no longer in town, but feel free to check out several neat photos here.
8. It Had Huge “Neck Ribs”
Take a gander at this picture. Notice those long, pointy things on the bottom of this Mamenchisaurus’ neck? They’re called “cervical ribs,” and they probably acted as a load-bearing mechanism. However, these would have also cost the dino some flexibility in that area. Alas, life frequently demands such trade-offs.
9. According to One Study, Mamenchisaurus Preferred Low-Lying Vegetation
In 2013, an international paleontological team took a good, hard look at Mamenchisaurus youngi and its magnificent vertebrae. Their research concluded that, based on its relative stiffness, M. youngi “had a nearly straight, near horizontal neck posture and browsed at low or medium heights.”
10. Mamenchisaurus May Have Played a Part in the History of Chinese Medicine
Are mythical dragons and long-gone dinosaurs really one and the same? Written sometime during the Jin Dynasty (265-317 C.E.), an invaluable book called The Chronicles of Huayang records the discovery of “dragon bones” in what is now China’s Sichuan Province. Jurassic fossil deposits—including a few which have produced Mamenchisaurus material—are widespread throughout the area. Perhaps this period’s dinosaurs helped give rise to the legendary, fire-breathing reptiles of Chinese folklore.
Furthermore, it was once widely believed that dragons harbored some medicinal qualities. In fact, as recently as 2006, dinosaur fossils were still being sold as “dragon bones” (at around 25 cents per pound), mashed up, and “boiled with other ingredients and fed to children to treat dizziness and leg cramps.” Ask your doctor if Mamenchisaurus is right for you!