Saturday, November 02, 2013

DIPLODOCUS: Endearment

by Arthur Weasley (Wikipedia)

Through the efforts of the famed industrialist Andrew Carnegie (U.S.), Diplodocus became world famous. Carnegie had generously sent out a large number of skeletal casts of Diplodocus to museums around the world. After She was discovered in 1877 in the United States, naturalists, at that time, thought that Diplodocus was the largest of the Dinosaurs. (Argentinosaurus, at twice the size of Diplodocus, is now regarded to be the largest.) Because of her near-complete skeleton in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, She was named Diplodocus carnegii in 1901.
            When Diplodocus was first examined by Othniel C. Marsh (noted paleontologist), he saw that She had extra bones underneath her spine. Therefore Marsh called Her “Diplodocus” (double beam) for the chevron-shaped bones which supported her neck and tail. These special bones are common in the skeletons of other Sauropods.
            Because of her extra-long neck and tail, Diplodocus was one of the longest of the Dinosaurs. Her tail, which was about half of her length, counterbalanced her considerable elongated neck. (Seismosaurus, a larger Dinosaur, is actually an abnormally long species of  Diplodocus.)
            When scientists first studied Diplodocus, they thought that She lived in the water. Her nostrils, which they believed were located on the top of her head, acted as a snorkel. For many years, illustrations showed Diplodocus standing in a swamp or lake. However, in the 1950’s and 60’s, two paleontologists proved otherwise. Dr. K.A. Kermack (U.K.) demonstrated that the water pressure would have killed Her if She did snorkel underwater. Then a few years later, Dr. Robert Bakker (U.S.) established that Diplodocus lived on land instead of water.
            Later the paleontologists reasoned that Diplodocus used her long neck to reach high up into the trees to eat leaves. Though her neck did contain fifteen vertebrae, She did not have the flexibility needed to lift her neck high.  When Diplodocus wanted to eat, She would grip a branch with her teeth and strip the leaves off. Also, sometimes She would poke her head into the forest fringes or push a tree over with her massive body to eat the leaves.
            Because of her early world-wide fame, Diplodocus became endeared by people. The museum workers who cleaned Diplodocus’ skeleton often called Her “Dippy.” Roaming about the countryside during the Jurassic, this long Dinosaur, with small spines running down her back, often pushed trees over using her elephant-like feet. That such a massive animal could endear Herself to people is a remarkable feat. We should ponder how She did that. Could it be that She was simply Herself, and people loved Her for it?

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