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


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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

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.


  1. 1

    Upchurch, P., Barrett, P. M. & Dodson, P. in The Dinosauria 2nd edn (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.) 259–322 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Upchurch, P. & Barrett, P. M. in Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates. Perspectives from the Fossil Record (ed. Sues, H.-D.) 79–122 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2000)

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Janensch, W. Übersicht über die Wirbeltierfauna der Tendaguruschichten, nebst einer kurzen Charakterisierung der neu aufgeführten Arten von Sauropoden. Archiv Biontol 3, 81–110 (1914)

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Salgado, L. & Bonaparte, J. F. Un nuevo sauropodo Dicraeosauridae, Amargasaurus cazaui gen. et sp. nov., de la Formacion La Amarga, Neocomiano de la Provincia del Neuquen Argentina. Ameghiniana 28, 333–346 (1991)

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Proserpio, C. A. Descripción geológica de la Hoja 44 e, Valle General Racedo, Pcia del Chubut. Dirección Nacional de Minería y Geología Boletin 201, 1–102 (1987)

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Janensch, W. Die Wirbelsäule der Gattung Dicraeosaurus . Palaeontographica 2(suppl. 7), 35–133 (1929)

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Bonaparte, J. F. Evolución de las vértebras presacras en Sauropodomorpha. Ameghiniana 36, 115–187 (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Wilson, J. A. A nomenclature for vertebral laminae in sauropods and other saurischian dinosaurs. J. Vertebr. Paleontol. 19, 639–653 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Wilson, J. A. Sauropod dinosaur phylogeny: critique and cladistic analysis. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 136, 217–276 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Janensch, W. Die Gliedmaszen und Gliedmaszengürtel der Sauropoden der Tendaguru-Schichten. Palaeontographica 3(suppl. 7), 177–235 (1961)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Weishampel, D. B., et al. in The Dinosauria 2nd edn (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.) 517–606 (Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Maier, G. African Dinosaurs Unearthed: The Tendaguru Expeditions (Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 2003)

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Remes, K. in Geobiologie. 74. Jahrestagung der Paläontologischen Gesellschaft (Göttingen, 2–8th October 2004). Kurzfassungen der Vorträge und Poster (eds Reitner, J., Reich, M. & Schmidt, G.) 195–196 (Universitätsdrucke Göttingen, Göttingen, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Ouyang, H. & Ye, Y. The First Mamenchisaurian Skeleton with Complete Skull: Mamenchisaurus youngi (Sichuan Science and Technology Press, Chengdu, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Bakker, R. T. Dinosaur feeding behaviour and the origin of flowering plants. Nature 274, 661–663 (1978)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Martin, J. in Fourth Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems, Short Papers (eds Currie, P. J. & Koster, E. H.) 150–155 (Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Drumheller, Alberta, 1987)

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Stevens, K. A. & Parrish, J. M. Neck posture and feeding habits of two Jurassic sauropod dinosaurs. Science 284, 798–800 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Christian, A. Neck posture and overall body design in sauropods. Mitt. Mus. Naturkunde Berlin Geowissenschaftl. Reihe 5, 271–281 (2002)

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Barrett, P. M. & Upchurch, P. in Sixth Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems and Biota, Short Papers (eds Sun, A. & Wang, Y.) 107–110 (China Ocean Press, Beijing, 1995)

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Foster, J. R. Relative abundance of the Sauropoda (Dinosauria, Saurischia) of the Morrison Formation and implications for Late Jurassic Paleoecology of North America. Mesa Southw. Mus. Bull. 8, 47–60 (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Calvo, J. O. Jaw mechanics in sauropod dinosaurs. Gaia 10, 183–193 (1994)

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Christiansen, P. Feeding mechanisms of the sauropod dinosaurs Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Dicraeosaurus . Historical Biol. 14, 137–152 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Paul, G. S. in Dinofest International (eds Wolberg, D. L., Stump, E. & Rosenberg, G. D.) 129–154 (Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, 1997)

    Google Scholar 

Download references


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).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Oliver W. M. Rauhut.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

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)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.