The Longest Dinosaur Neck Has A New Record

The Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum is estimated to have had a 50-foot-long neck.


Sauropods are dinosaurs known for their towering long necks and huge bodies, and in a new study, scientists have found a sauropod with the longest neck of them all.

The Late Jurassic Chinese sauropod Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum had a 50-foot-long neck, according to estimations from Stony Brook researcher Andrew J. Moore and his team's analysis published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. This is the longest neck discovered on any dinosaur--or any animal--yet, comparable to the height of a four-story building or eight giraffe necks stacked on top of each other.

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The Mamenchisaurus at the center of the study was first discovered in 1987 from 162-million-year-old rocks in northwest China. Due to the partial nature of the remains, Moore and his team reconstructed the Mamenchiasaurus' evolutionary relationships and were able to use close relatives, like the Xinjiangtitan shanshanesis (a specimen with a remarkably well-preserved neck), to estimate the Mamenchiasaurus' neck length.

“​​By using these more complete, but smaller specimens, we can scale up and make a pretty competent estimate of what Mamenchisaurus would have looked like,” Moore said to the New York Times. Elaborating on the method to Live Science, Moore added, "Our analyses make us fairly confident that Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum had 18 vertebrae in its neck, because close cousins known from more complete skeletons all have 18 cervical vertebrae. So just focusing just on these close relatives with similar necks, we scaled up."

Moore and his team also looked at how the Mamenchisaurus could've supported such long necks and huge bodies. They CT scanned the vertebrae and discovered that the interiors contained pockets of air, something similar to birds from the present era--making the spine of the Mamenchisaurus lighter in density and a more bearable load.

It's not exactly certain why the Mamenchisaurus evolved to have such long necks, but Moore speculated that it could've made them more efficient at foraging and also helped them release excess body heat from their huge bodies.

“Mamenchisaurids are important because they pushed the limits on how long a neck can be, and were the first lineage of sauropods to do so," said Moore to the Natural History Museum. "With a 15-meter-long neck, it looks like Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum might be a record-holder--at least until something longer is discovered.”

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