How to Shrink a Dinosaur: Fossils Reveal Evolution of 'Pocket Sauropods'
Sauropods are best known for being the largest dinosaurs ever to roam Earth. But a new study of these ancient creatures focuses on a surprising fact: Some sauropods were actually quite small.
The conclusion is based on the discovery of the fossil remains of the smaller-than-average sauropod dubbed Europasaurus holgeri in 2006 in a quarry in northern Germany.The specimens were approximately 20 feet (6 meters) long and are believed to have supported dinosaurs weighing less than a ton each. While these dimensions may seem large by today's standards — the animals were bigger than the average horse — they belonged to animals that were significantly smaller than other sauropods.
Scientists originally thought the fossils may have belonged to juvenile dinosaurs. But the new study determined that the fossils actually belonged to adult dwarf dinosaurs, said lead researcher Martin Sander, a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the Steinmann Institute of Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology at the University of Bonn in Germany. [Paleo-Art: See Vivid Illustrations of Dinosaurs]