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The sauropods ("lizard-footed") were a subgroup of the saurischian, or "lizard-hipped," dinosaurs. This group contains the largest land animals ever.

All subsets of Sauropod looked pretty much the same - four legs, long neck, long tail, big belly, your standard cartoon rubber-stamp image of a dinosaur. Small brain, small skull. Nostrils located high up on the head, rather than down at the snouty end, as in many other terrestrial vertebrates. They were all herbivores and therefore had blunt teeth. They moved in herds. They did not drag their tails.

The big bellies were to accomodate and process the huge amounts of plant material these guys ingested. Mostly they ate conifers (the predominant plant life during the Jurassic era) but also enjoyed a variety of fine ferns and mosses.

Early relatives of the sauropods, the late Triassic plateosaurs or prosauropods, may have occasionally stood on their hind legs. Most of them were built, leg-wise, sort of like elephants; they could stand up on two legs, but not for long.

It used to be thought that the sauropods had a second brain at the base of the tail. Some paleontologists now think that this was perhaps an enlargement in the spinal cord in the hip area, containing nerves and fatty tissue. This enlargement was actually larger than the animal's weensy little brain, and may have controlled the animal's massive hindquarters and tail. ha ha ass brain

There has been much speculation as to the purpose and use of their long necks. I love that people sit around speculating about this stuff. The sauropod with the longest neck was Mamenchisaurus, whose neck was about 46 feet long, over half of its total length. Different sauropods had different neck stances. The Brachiosaurids held their necks vertically, like giraffes, most likely for tasty-leaf-reaching. Others held their necks more or less parallel to the ground, possibly for poking through undergrowth to reach edible foliage which was otherwise inaccessible by their big fat bodies. Also, we know that some of them liked a variety of soft plants which grew only in marshy areas, where sauropods couldn't go, due to being so heavy and not being very agile at getting out of marshes. The long necks would have enabled them to stand on dry land and still enjoy the taste sensations available only in swamps.

They were geographically quite widespread - their remains, in the form of bones or footprints, have been found on every continent but Antarctica. They were also one of the most long-lived groups of dinosaurs, spanning about 100 million years, from the Late Triassic period, through the Jurassic (the height of their popularity) to the Upper Cretaceous.

As time passed they got bigger and much cooler. The early Anchisaurids were only about 10 feet long, while later giants (diplodocids, titanosaurids, brachiosaurids) were often over 100 feet long. Some of the later, larger sauropods, such as Titanosauridae, had the very rad perk of rudimentary body armor.

The sauropods were extinct by the end of the Cretaceous period, along with all the rest of them, and I've been reading about them for several hours, and maybe it is dumb but it made me a little sad just now to type the word "extinct."


Some major sauropod families, and some example members of each, for your perusal and enjoyment :


thanks to:
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/saurischia/sauropoda.html
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/saurischia/sauropoddiet.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/glossary/Sauropod.shtml
http://gavinrymill.com/dinosaurs/tracks/tracks.html

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