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Diplodocus

Diplodocus is a genus of extinct diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs that lived 154 to 152 million years ago. It is one of the most common dinosaur fossils found in the Morrison Formation along with other sauropods like Barosaurus, Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus and Brontosaurus.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Order Saurischia
Suborder Sauropodomorpha
Family Diplodocidae
Subfamily Diplodocinae
Genus Diplodocus
Species Diplodocus longus (Type Species)
Diplodocus carnegii
Diplodocus hallorum

Quick Information

Name Meaning Double-beamed
Pronunciation dih-plod-uh-kuh s
Geological Time Period Late Kimmeridgian era, Jurassic period
Length 90 feet (27 m)
Height 16 ft (5 m) tall at hips
Neck size 26 foot (8 m)
Tail size 45 foot (14 m)
Weight 20000 to 40000 lbs (10-20 tons)
Range/Location Western North America
Diet Herbivorous
Habitat floodplain or swamp-like environment
Birth type (Reproduction) Eggs
Locomotion Quadrupedal

Physical Description

Like other sauropods, Diplodocus had a long neck and long tail. It had a small head (compared to its overall built). The nostrils were on the top of the head. They had a small braincase. It had peg-like teeth on their front-jaw. Their front legs were a little shorter than their hind legs. It had just one claw (unusually large compared to other sauropods) in its front limb. Their ribs were not attached to their backbone. Their tail, probably used to maintain counterbalance the neck, carried around 80 caudal vertebrae. Their neck carried around 15 vertebrae.

History and Discovery

The first fossil remains were found in 1877, at Cañon City in Colorado, by Samuel Wendell Williston and Benjamin Mudge. It was named Diplodocus longus by American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh in 1878. Many Diplodocus species have been found and described between 1878 and 1924. Even though Diplodocus remains are commonly found in the Morrison Formation in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, yet the skull has never been found.

Species

Original type species D. longus is known from two complete specimens and many other fragmentary caudal vertebrae found in the Morrison Formation of Colorado. Several other complete specimens have been attributed to D. longus, but detailed research suggested that original fossil lacks the essential features to set aside for comparison with other specimens. This is the reason it is called a nomen dubium, and it is not ideal to call it a type species of a well-recognized genus like Diplodocus. This is why many paleontologists believe D. carnegii should be declared as the new type species for this genus.

carnegii (i.e., D. carnegiei), is the best-known species of this genus. The species, named after Andrew Carnegie, is known from a near-complete skeleton collected by Jacob Wortman. John Bell Hatcher named and described the species in 1901.

hallorum was first described as Seismosaurus halli by Gillette in 1991 from a partial skeleton comprising pelvis, ribs and vertebrae. The specimen NMMNH P-3690 was found in the year 1979.

Etymology

The generic name has come from Greek words διπλός (diplos) meaning “double” and δοκός (dokos) meaning “beam,” citing its double-beamed chevron bones in the under part of the tail.

Adaptation and Behavior

It is believed that they were terrestrial creature living in herds. They were primarily browsers feeding on bushes, ferns etc. Marsh and Hatcher said that Diplodocus lived in aquatic environments like other sauropods like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus.

There is no direct evidence of its mating and nesting adaptations, but it is believed to be like other sauropods. It is believed that their tail, which was capable of making loud noises, was used for defensive purpose. In fact, their size played a huge role in dealing with predators like Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus. Given their large body and long neck, they probably had an avian-like respiratory system.

Interesting Facts

  • Diplodocus skeleton mounts are displayed in several museums around the world, including Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Natural History Museum in London, National Natural History Museum in Madrid, Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt and National Natural History Museum in Paris.
  • D. hayi, once thought to be a Diplodocus species, has now been renamed as the separate genus Galeamopus.
  • D. lacustris, named by Marsh in 1884, is another nomen dubium. It is believed that the remains belonged to an immature specimen rather than a separate species. In 2015, it was said that the specimen actually belonged to Camarasaurus.
  • A 1910 reconstruction by Oliver P. Hay depicted Diplodocus with splayed lizard-like legs arguing in favor of lizard-like gait. But sauropod footprints found in 1930 replaced Hay’s theory.
  • Diplodocus has been featured in several TV shows (BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs), movies, documentary film, toy-lines and literary pieces.
  • American DJ, record producer, rapper and songwriter Thomas Wesley Pentz’s stage name Diplo is inspired from Diplodocus.
  • Diplodocus is the longest dinosaur known from a complete skeleton.

Published on November 24th 2015 by under Reptiles.
Article was last reviewed on 15th May 2019.

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