The physiology of sauropods seemed to have been quite different from other dinosaurs as they preferred to live in warmer climates. Sauropods were giant herbivores that walked on four legs. They had an extremely long neck, small head, a big body, and a long tail.
According to a recent study, sauropods (these included Brontosaurus and Diplodocus) actually preferred living in warmer climates. This may have been because they were more cold-blooded than previously thought. This also means that they would have had a much different physiology than other dinosaurs.
Researchers from UCL and the University of Vigo wanted to learn more about why bones belonging to sauropods had been discovered in warmer areas of the planet, while other dinosaur fossils had been unearthed in all different locations that even included the extremely cold polar areas.
Experts studied bones from three types of dinosaurs – sauropods, theropods (these included Tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptors), and ornithischians (this included the Triceratops). The specimens all dated back to the Mesozoic Era from around 230 to 66 million years ago. They also looked at the climate during that time.
What they found was that unlike other dinosaurs, sauropods only lived in warmer climates. More specifically, they wouldn’t go near any area where the temperatures were near the freezing point. This was very unusual as other dinosaurs “...could thrive in Earth’s polar regions, from innermost Antarctica to polar Alaska – which, due to the warmer climate, were ice-free, with lush vegetation,” noted Dr. Philip Mannion from UCL, adding, “Our research shows that some parts of the planet always seemed to be too cold for sauropods.”
As for why they couldn’t handle the colder temperatures, Dr. Mannion explained, “This suggests sauropods had different thermal requirements from other dinosaurs, relying more on their external environment to heat their bodies – slightly closer to being ‘cold-blooded’, like modern-day reptiles.” “Their grand size hints that this physiology may have been unique.”
Dr. Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza from the University of Vigo, Spain, went into even more details by stating, “It may be that sauropods were physiologically incapable of thriving in colder regions, or that they thrived less well in these areas than their dinosaurian cousins and were outcompeted.” “A mix of features may have helped sauropods shed heat more easily than mammals do today.” “Their long necks and tails would have given them a larger surface area, and they may have had a respiratory system more akin to birds, which is much more efficient.”
He went on to say that sauropods may have had a different manner in keeping their eggs warm, such as possibly burying them so that the heat from the ground and the sun could warm them up. For comparison, theropods more than likely sat on their eggs, while ornithischians may have used decaying plants to keep their eggs warm.
The study was published in Current Biology where it can be read in full.