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10 Things You Might Not Know About Diplodocus

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Diplodocus ranks among the most impressive animals that’s ever walked the earth and, thanks to a great philanthropist, it’s also become one of the world’s favorite dinosaurs. So, let’s get a little better acquainted with this captivating creature.

1. Andrew Carnegie Was a Big Diplodocus Fan.

A steel industry giant who loved his dinos, Carnegie financed several fossil-finding expeditions, one of which yielded a gigantic Diplodocus specimen in 1899. As an act of goodwill, he donated meticulously-crafted casts of the skeleton (nicknamed “Dippy”) to museums in such cities as Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Moscow, and London.

2. Young Diplodocus Were Finicky Eaters.

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Like many human kids, adolescent Diplodocus were a bit picky. Because they had much narrower snouts than adults did, juveniles proportionally grabbed less food with each bite. It’s been suggested that this is because they exclusively ate higher-quality plants while growing up.

3. A Faction of Paleontologists Once Thought that Diplodocus Sprawled Like a Lizard.

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We now know that Diplodocus held those column-like legs directly underneath its body. Back in 1910, however, some scientists claimed that these limbs actually jetted out to the side. Enter William Jacob Holland (1848-1932), a zoologist and minister with a knack for cheesy one-liners. As Holland pointed out, this king-sized dinosaur had a deep, protruding rib cage. Ergo, if Diplodocus sprawled, its dragging belly would’ve carved a huge trench—or “rut”—through the soil every time it went for a stroll. Dripping with sarcasm, he added “This might perhaps account for his early extinction. It is physically and mentally bad to ‘get into a rut.’”

4. One Particularly Huge Diplodocus Species Was Over 100 Feet Long.

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Conservative estimates hold that Diplodocus hallorum—previously known as Seismosaurus halli stretched a remarkable 110 feet from end to end. So, does this make it the longest dinosaur ever? No. Patagonia’s Argentinosaurus, India’s Bruhathkayosaurus, and Colorado’s Supersaurus appear to have been comparable in length. And then there’s the mysterious Amphicoelias, which quite possibly dwarfed them all. But because all five are only known from annoyingly-incomplete specimens, paleontologists can merely speculate about which one (if any) deserves that crown.

5. It Had Plenty of Long-Necked Neighbors.

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Unless you’re living in a Land Before Time movie, “sauropod” is the proper term for “long-necked” herbivorous dinosaurs. One hundred and fifty million years ago, Diplodocus lived alongside several other members of this group in the wilds of North America, including Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, and even Apatosaurus, the dino formerly known as Brontosaurus.

6. Some Believe Diplodocus’ Whip-Like Tail Could’ve Broken the Sound Barrier.

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These herbivores might have used their sinuous tails to produce an intimidating thwacking noise in the event of a predator attack. Hopefully, that’d be frightening enough; being forced to actually make contact with the opponent’s skin likely meant breaking several of its own vertebrae.

7. Diplodocus Didn’t Chew—It Gulped.

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When you’ve got a 12-ton body to feed, chewing is a time-waster you can’t afford. According to a 2012 skull analysis, Diplodocus’ jaws were designed to remove leaves from branches by stripping and/or plucking them off. Whatever Diplodocus consumed was mostly swallowed whole before getting broken down during digestion. 

8. Scientists Aren’t Sure if Diplodocus Held its Head High.

Would sauropods like Diplodocus have preferred holding their necks horizontally (as seen above) or raising them upwards? A case can be made for both interpretations. On the one hand, if such a large neck was kept parallel to the ground, blood might’ve flowed more easily to the dino’s brain. Yet, on the other hand, this could prevent Diplodocus from browsing on tree limbs, cutting off a potentially important food source. Also, living animals almost universally incline their necks upwards to some degree.

9. Diplodocus Replaced its Teeth With Incredible Speed.

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Like today’s sharks, this animal and its kin constantly replaced their own teeth and “would’ve had a fresh tooth in each position every one to two months, sometimes less,” says Dr. Michael D’Emic of Stony Brook University. “Effectively, sauropods took a ‘quantity over quality’ approach” to their dental arsenals.

10. Teddy Roosevelt Wrote That If Diplodocus Were Still Alive, He’d Enjoy Shooting One.

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When you’re hunting dinosaurs, carrying a big stick doesn’t cut it. In 1905, Carnegie and Holland visited the U.K. to show off one of their Diplodocus casts, to the delight of British cartoonists. After they returned home, the Bull Moose himself wrote an enthusiastic letter of congratulations: “What a bully time you must have had in London! The delight which the political caricaturists made of your Diplodocus was most amusing. What a pity the thing died out! What glorious shooting we would have had on the Little Missouri if it survived to our time!” 

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Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

One of the first-known works of dinosaur art was The country of the Iguanodon, an 1837 watercolor by John Martin. It depicts the ancient reptiles as giant iguanas, thrashing and fighting near a stone quarry—a far cry from today's sophisticated 3D renderings.

By watching the PBS Eons video below, you can learn how our image of dinosaurs has changed over the centuries, thanks to artworks based on new scientific discoveries and fossil findings. Find out why artists decided to give the prehistoric creatures either feathers or scales, make them either active or sluggish, present them as walking on two or four feet, and to imagine tails that either dragged or lifted, among other features.

Keep in mind, however, that both emerging technologies and new findings are constantly changing the way scientists view dinosaurs. A new species, on average, is named every two weeks—and this research will likely keep artists busy (and constantly revising their work) for years to come.

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Paleontologists are constantly discovering new dinosaurs (or questioning whether beloved species ever existed in the first place), so it's hard to keep track of every dino that ever existed. But if you want an up-to-date catalogue of the most significant beasts from the Triassic to the Cretaceous periods, this taxonomy poster from Pop Chart Lab is tough to beat.

Titled Dinosauria, the chart organizes more than 700 genera of dinosaurs into one easy-to-read infographic. All of the standard favorites are represented, like Triceratops and T. Rex, as well as some more obscure or newly discovered prehistoric reptiles like Conchoraptor and Psittacosaurus. Pop Chart Lab pulled its data from the most current classification systems, even including research published just this year that unifies ornithischians with theropods.


The 100 hand-drawn illustrations and accompanying taxonomic timeline took over 500 hours of research to design. Hanging it on your wall at home requires a lot less effort: You can order a 24-inch-by-36-inch print for $37 from Pop Chart Lab’s online store.

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