Size and Scale
Size is much more than just a matter of appearances. It affects nearly everything an animal does. Big animals eat more than small animals; small animals breathe faster than big animals. Big animals generally live much longer than small ones.
The centerpiece of our exhibition is Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis (Mah-MEN-chi-SAWR-us ho-CHOO-an EN-sis). As you explore the website you'll encounter her both as she looked in life and as she would have looked had scientists been able to peer inside her body.
No one has ever seen inside a sauropod. After all, flesh doesn't fossilize. But today's experts are making science-based reconstructions of the biological systems that allowed members of this group to become the largest animals that ever walked.
For 140 million years, sauropods roamed Earth--but today we have just fossils to tell us about what these animals looked like from the outside. How big were they? How big were their young? What did their skin look like? How fast could they move? And while fossils can't answer every question--like what color the animals were--they do reveal an astonishing amount of information that helps paleontologists understand these massive creatures.
Digging up Sauropods
To figure out how sauropods moved, breathed or ate, paleontologists need fossils. For example, we know a great deal about Mamenchisaurus because of fossils uncovered in China. Fossil expeditions around the world have uncovered the remains of hundreds of sauropod species. Large numbers of sauropod fossils have been found in Wyoming, in the western U.S., at a site called Howe Quarry.
Have paleontologists already found the world's largest dinosaur? Look at it this way. Sauropods reigned for 140 million years, and scientists have only been digging for about 150 years. Is it likely they've already unearthed the very biggest? Here's one reason scientists think the biggest dinosaur may still be out there.