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Brachiosaurus

BRAK - ee - oh - SAW - rus

sauropoda/Brachiosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Arm lizard"
Length: 82 feet (25 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Jurassic to early Cretaceous
Location: Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, USA; Portugal; Algeria; Tanzania

One of the tallest known dinosaurs to walk on all fours, Brachiosaurus towered at least 52 feet (16 m) into the forest canopy, where its small head could strip leaves from tree branches. Some finds in the western United States suggest that Brachiosaurus may have been able to reach much higher. If that is true, it would have been one of the largest of all dinosaurs.

Unusual among the long-necked sauropod dinosaurs, Brachiosaurus had front legs that were much longer than its hind legs and a relatively short tail. The long forearms pushed the shouders high above the level of the hips, producing the characteristic slope of its back. All of its four legs were straight, columnlike pillars that could support the stupendous weight of the animal.

Compared to the rest of the animal, Brachiosaurus's head was rather small, and its mouth must have been kept busy collecting enough food to keep the creature alive. Some estimates suggest thst, if Brachiosaurus were warm-blooded, it would have needed 440 lb (200 kg) of food a day; if, however it were cold-blooded, it would have needed much less. Its digestion was aided by grinding stones, or gastroliths, that helped to stir the soupy mixture of food that was constantly brewing in its vatlike foregut.

Its sheer size would have protected an adult Brachiosaurus from predators, but juveniles would have been vulnerable to attack. It is likely that this dinosaur formed small herds, where the larger individuals could protect smaller animals from the menace of predators.

Specimens of Brachiosaurus were recovered by German paleontologists from the rich fossil grounds of Tendaguru in modern-day Tanzania in Africa. One of these specimens is a prized display in the Humboldt Museum in Berlin. An American specimen, collected from Colorado, is the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in North America. It is on display in the entrance hall of the Field of Natural History Museum in Chicago.

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