Long Dinosaur Story

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Long dinosaur story reported in news@nature 20 Mar 2006. In 2002 palaeontologists exploring the Gobi desert have found "several leg bones, part of a breastbone and six vertebrae, each twice the size of a loaf of bread". Daniel Ksepka of the American Museum of Natural History, New York described the bones for the museum’s journal and concluded that they came from a previously unknown dinosaur that had one of the longest necks of any dinosaur. Ksepka claims the animal probably had 14 or 15 of the huge vertebrae making up its neck. This means the dinosaur’s neck would have been eight metres long. The bones had a V shaped notch indicating that the bones were held together by a strong ligament to support the animal’s neck, which the scientist believe was held out in front of the body, not upright like a giraffe. The dinosaur has been named "Erketu ellisoni" and is believed to be a plant eater related to a group of large dinosaurs known as titanosaurs because of their enormous size. Mark Norell, who studied the specimen with Ksepka, commented: "On the weirdo index, this is pretty weird."

Editorial Comment: Some readers of this newsletter may remember another story about dinosaur necks where palaeontologists found eight neck bones, and no head, and decided they had found a dinosaur with an unusually short neck. This time they have found six neck bones, but no neck and shoulders, and have decided they have an unusually long necked dinosaur. As different dinosaurs have different numbers of neck bones there is no way of really knowing how long a dinosaur’s neck was unless you have them all. This story reminds us that it is always worth comparing what the palaeontologists actually found with what they have constructed in their minds and put in the text books as fact. (Ref. sauropods, reconstruction)

Evidence News 27 April 2006

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