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11 Towering Facts About Brachiosaurus

Today, we’re stepping back and taking a good look at what must have been one of the most awe-inspiring dinosaurs of all time: the magnificent Brachiosaurus.

1. Its Name Means “Arm Lizard.”

Most sauropod, or long-necked, dinos had hind legs which were slightly longer than their forelimbs—but Brachiosaurus and its closest cousins reversed that trend with their tall, burly arms.

2. Paleo-Illustrators Might Have to Give Brachiosaurus a Nose Job.

Andy Hay, Flickr

The behemoth’s nasal openings are located on an enlarged “bump” in front of its eyes. For many years, scientists assumed that the creature’s nostrils must have been located there, an interpretation which has recently fallen under scrutiny. In 2001, paleontologist Lawrence Witmer examined muscle attachment scars in several dinosaur and present-day animal skulls, and based on this research, he concluded that Brachiosaurus’ nose holes weren’t pushed backwards after all, but instead held relatively close to the tip of its snout [PDF].

3. It Walked On Its Toes.

Be a good sport and stand up. Notice that after rising, the full length of each foot supports your body weight. That’s because we humans are “plantigrade” creatures.  As such, our heels and toes make direct contact with the ground while standing or walking. This setup works just fine for us, but dinosaurs favored a different approach.

These beasts utilized a “digitigrade” stance where, like modern dogs and cats, their toes/fingers did all of the mass-bearing, leaving the heels permanently raised.

4. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Features a Resident Brachiosaurus.

If every terminal had one of these, traveling dino-maniacs would definitely miss more flights. A 40-foot-tall, 70-foot-long fiberglass Brachiosaurus skeletal replica was handed over to this airport when the nearby Chicago Field Museum started making room for a newly-acquired T. rex.

5. Brachiosaurus Probably Couldn’t Rear Up Very Well.

During this jaw-dropping scene from Jurassic Park (1993), a computer-animated Brachiosaurus stands upwards on its hind legs to snag a tasty leaf. But could the real animal have followed suit? Dr. Heinrich Mallison argues that, due to its top-heavy build, Brachiosaurus “was probably unlikely to use a bipedal … posture regularly and for an extended period of time. Although this dinosaur certainly could have reared up, for example during mating, this was probably a rare and short-lived event.”

6. It Inspired a Star Wars Creature.

Time for a geek test: In which Star Wars films did the beastie pictured above appear? If you guessed The Phantom Menace and A New Hope: Special Edition, congratulations—you’ve just won a virtual high-five! These hulking Tatooine denizens, officially called “rontos,” were loosely based on Jurassic Park’s digital Brachiosaurus models.

7. Its Genus Was Recently Split.

For several decades, paleontologists thought the Brachiosaurus genus included both a North American and an African species, B. altithorax & B. brancai, respectively. However, a 2009 analysis found that these two animals were quite different anatomically. To reflect this, “B. brancai” has since been given its own genus name and is now known as Giraffatitan brancai [PDF].

8. A Weird Notion Claims Brachiosaurus and Other Sauropods Had Trunks.

Every so often, the idea that these guys fed their faces with elephant-style trunks gets tossed around. However, the paleontological community has overwhelmingly panned this suggestion. For starters, an elephant’s schnoz is a heavy-duty instrument which leaves distinctive scars upon the mammal’s bones. There’s simply no evidence of these markings in Brachiosaurus or any of its brethren. Also, given the fact that sauropods doubtlessly used their impressively long necks for food-gathering purposes, they likely wouldn’t require trunks in the first place.

9. Brachiosaurus Played a Role in the Infamous “Brontosaurus” Kerfuffle.

Thomas Quine, Flickr

Sorry, folks, but there’s no such thing as a “Brontosaurus.” In the 1870s, that name was given to a headless sauropod skeleton which turned up in Wyoming. When illustrating the animal’s bones, fossil-hunter Othneil Charles Marsh included a speculative skull drawing modeled after some Brachiosaurus noggin scraps that had been found nearby. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that his “Brontosaurus” was really nothing more than a species of the previously-christened dino Apatosaurus.

10. One of its Relatives Was an “Island Dwarf.”

Big bodies become a handicap when you’re cut off from the mainland—so, when introduced to islands, larger animals tend to get smaller and smaller over time. Not even dinosaurs were immune to this evolutionary pressure: Europasaurus holgeri, a sauropod which once lived off the coast of Germany, reached a meager length of 20 feet! Classification-wise, this Deutschland dino resides within the Brachiosauridae family.

11. Brachiosaurus’ Skull Only Represented 1/200th of its Total Body Volume.

Wolfgang Jung, Flickr

Extremely small heads (proportionally speaking) are a trademark feature of sauropods in general. Why’d they have such puny skulls attached to those hulking bodies? A precise consensus on this point remains elusive, but their elongated necks almost certainly hold the answer. Far-reaching necks can, after all, swing across wide areas, enabling their wielders to nibble on a large sampling of vegetation while barely even moving their lazy feet. Nature often rewards efficiency.   

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New LEGO Set Recreates Jurassic Park's Iconic Velociraptor Chase Scenes
LEGO
LEGO

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit the original film in LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted by Nerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. There's the main computer room where Ariana Richards's Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock that's velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, you'll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. There's less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

The Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of LEGO.

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CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
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science
Why Are There No More Dinosaurs?
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But let’s talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, the climate (CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But that’s not why almost all of the dinosaurs became extinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wide asteroid (AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal life—including the dinosaurs. The asteroid probably caused shockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they had evolved (ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals diversified (die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animals—including us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!    


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