The Biggest Dinosaur

From four dinosaur neck bones, scientists have reconstructed a tale of the terrible lizards' grand efflorescence: what they believe is the largest and longest necked creature ever to trudge across the Earth. The animal is a lizardlike sauropod whose remains were found in sediments, dated at 110 million years old, in southeastern Oklahoma in 1994. Dubbed Sauroposeidon proteles (proteles is Greek for "perfected before the end"), the critter lived in a surprisingly late era, when the Jurassic was already ancient history and dinos were dying out in the rest of North America.

With its remarkably light and porous bones, Sauroposeidon represented the last word in neck engineering. The longest vertebra, believed to be C8, is 140 centimeters long--suggesting a neck length of 10 meters and a body running upwards of 30 meters, from head to tail. The animal probably stood at 18 meters, allowing it to graze the tops of pines and towering tree ferns, says paleontology grad student Mathew Wedel, who along with paleontologist Richard Cifelli and radiologist Kent Sanders of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, described the beast at last month's meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Denver. Their full report will appear in the March issue of the society's journal.