CLOSE

10 Fun Facts About Nigersaurus

Sauropods (or “long-necked” dinos) were a magnificent group which included the largest land animals to have ever walked the earth. But not every species was an awe-inspiring behemoth: Some, like the smallish, “vacuum-mouthed” Nigersaurus, almost seem like evolution’s idea of a joke.

1. Good Grief, Those Jaws Were Weird!

Where to begin? Thanks to its eccentric maw, Nigersaurus is among the strangest-looking dinosaurs known to man. Five hundred teeth were stored in the thing’s muzzle-like jaws, where they were divvied up into 50 vertical columns. That might sound a tad excessive but, according to some estimates, each Nigersaurus tooth had a two-week shelf life before a replacement shoved it out (think of conveyor belts).

Where Nigersaurus truly diverges, however, is in the orientation of these teeth. Like two bony hair combs, the animal’s chompers were arranged in broad, horizontal rows anchored onto jaws which kept all of them at the very front of its snout. Freakishly, this tooth-filled section is wider than the rest of Nigersaurus’ skull!

2. Nigersaurus was Fairly Light-Headed.

Its noggin featured some abnormally-thin cranial bones; in fact, many are almost translucent.

3. It Took Scientists Decades to Realize Just How Odd This Critter Was.  

Nigersaurus received its scientific name in 1976, but paleontologists wouldn’t get a decent idea of what the animal looked like until the late 2000s. Why? This dino’s skeleton was, in many places, hollow, making it vulnerable to shattering and distortion. Before 1997, though specimens were common, no decent ones had turned up—so for years, few suspected that Nigersaurus was anything other than some run-of-the-mill, Plain Jane sauropod.

4. Nigersaurus Has been Called a “Mesozoic Cow.”

Lawn-mower impersonations seem to have been its forte: Nigersaurus’ wide muzzle and shredding teeth were clearly designed for nomming on ground-level vegetation (for the record, grass-guzzling wouldn’t have been an option, as the earliest grasses hadn’t yet begun evolving in its day).

5. Its Eyes Were Disproportionately Large.

Granted, not much about Nigersaurus looks proportionate, but, for reasons unknown, this dino’s cartoonish eye sockets were atypically huge by sauropod standards.

6. Nigersaurus' Spine Was Partially Filled with Air.

Its neck vertebrae are little more than delicate skeletal shells. Like many other dinos (and all modern-day birds), many of Nigersaurus’ bones were hollow and likely indicate the presence of a complicated, avian-style respiratory system.

7. Nigersaurus’ Sense of Smell Left a Lot to be Desired.

Nigersaurus probably didn’t spend much time following its nose. An examination of its brain cavity reveals that, despite having elongated nostrils, this herbivore’s olfactory lobes (which help the brain perceive scent) were noticeably small.

8. Nigersaurus was a “Short-Necked” Long-Necked Dinosaur.

Try repeating that sentence five times fast! Sauropods are usually associated with extensive necks; some well-endowed species even placed over 35 feet between their heads and shoulders. But Nigersaurus and its closest relatives (which together formed a sub-group called the “Rebbachisauridae”) had little to brag about in this department.

9. Much Ado Has Been Made About its Posture.

Did Nigersaurus habitually slump or hold its head high? At first, some scientists speculated that the short-necked Nigersaurus kept its skull perpetually drooped at a 67 degree downward angle to better facilitate ground-level foraging [PDF]. On the other hand, subsequent researchers have argued that, although it could certainly strike such a pose from time to time, this animal’s vertebrae allowed for a much wider range of motion than was previously supposed. Hence, they maintain, Nigersaurus could have also preferred keeping its chin up (so to speak) like a more typical sauropod.

10. We’ve Found Pieces of Tiny Nigersaurus Babies.

Though adults were roughly 30 feet long, the itsy-bitsy fossilized jawbone of a hatchling Nigersaurus was so small that, according to paleontologist Paul Sereno, it could “fit on top of a silver dollar.” Aww!  

nextArticle.image_alt|e
LEGO
arrow
fun
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
arrow
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!    


SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios