Carin L. Cain/AAAS

ScienceShot: Sauropods Held Their Heads High

For decades, sauropods were considered the awkward, lanky teenagers of the dinosaur world, keeping their long necks bowed low rather than standing tall and proud. More recently, some palaeontologists have questioned this view and argued that holding their heads high was necessary for sauropods to exploit food sources at great heights, especially during food shortages. But that raises a question: Was raising such an enormous neck—more than 10 meters in some species—more energy-efficient than moving around when scouring for food? A study published in the 23 June issue of the Royal Society journal Biology Letters provides an answer. From stress measurements on the intervertebral cartilage of a mid-sized sauropod called Euhelopus, researchers calculated that using the energy it would take to walk 100 meters, this species could maintain a vertical neck for up to half an hour—enough time to get a nice meal from a tall tree. For at least some sauropods, the team says, sticking out their necks was worth the effort.

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