Discovery of a short-necked sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period of Patagonia

Abstract

Sauropod dinosaurs are one of the most conspicuous groups of Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrates. They show general trends towards an overall increase in size and elongation of the neck, by means of considerable elongation of the length of individual vertebrae and a cervical vertebra count that, in some cases, increases to 19 (ref. 1). The long neck is a particular hallmark of sauropod dinosaurs and is usually regarded as a key feeding adaptation2. Here we describe a new dicraeosaurid sauropod, from the latest Jurassic period of Patagonia, that has a particularly short neck. With a neck that is about 40% shorter than in other known dicraeosaurs3,4, this taxon demonstrates a trend opposite to that seen in most sauropods and indicates that the ecology of dicraeosaurids might have differed considerably from that of other sauropods. The new taxon indicates that there was a rapid radiation and dispersal of dicraeosaurids in the Late Jurassic of the Southern Hemisphere, after the separation of Gondwana from the northern continents by the late Middle Jurassic.

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Figure 1: Holotype of Brachytrachelopan mesai , MPEF PV 1716.
Figure 2: Phylogenetic position of Brachytrachelopan , based on an analysis of 27 sauropod taxa and 154 characters.
Figure 3: Outline drawings of three diplodocoid sauropods for comparison of overall size and relative proportions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. Mesa, who found the specimen, and his family for their hospitality during the fieldwork; all the preparators and volunteers who helped with the excavation and preparation of the material; H. Mayr for his help with nomenclatorial questions; and A. López-Arbarello, P. Barrett and D. Unwin for critical comments. This project was supported by a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) postdoctoral fellowship, and grants to O.W.M.R. from the Jurassic Foundation, BBC Horizon and the German Research Foundation (DFG).

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Correspondence to Oliver W. M. Rauhut.

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Supplementary Data

Contains information on the procedures of the phylogenetic analysis, a list of characters, the data matrix and a list of synapomorphies exhibited by the new taxon. (RTF 76 kb)

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Rauhut, O., Remes, K., Fechner, R. et al. Discovery of a short-necked sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period of Patagonia. Nature 435, 670–672 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03623

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