Alamosaurus

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Alamosaurus by  Bogdanov,2006

Alamosaurus (meaning “Ojo Alamo lizard”) is a genus of titanosaurian sauropod dinosaurs, containing a single known species, Alamosaurus sanjuanensis, from the late Cretaceous Period of what is now southern North America. Isolated vertebrae and limb bones indicate that it reached sizes comparable to Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus, which would make it the largest dinosaur known from North America. Its fossils have been recovered from a variety of rock formations spanning the Maastrichtian age of the late Cretaceous period. Specimens of a juvenile Alamosaurus sanjuanensis have been recovered from only a few meters below the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary in Texas, making it among the last surviving non-avian dinosaur species.

The size of Alamosaurus sanjuanensis by teratophoneus on DeviantArt

Alamosaurus was a gigantic quadrupedal herbivore with a long neck and tail and relatively long limbs. Its body was at least partly covered in bony armor. Though most of the complete remains come from juvenile or small adult specimens, three fragmentary specimens, SMP VP−1625, SMP VP−1850 and SMP VP−2104, suggest that adult Alamosaurus could have grown to enormous sizes comparable to the largest known dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus, which has been estimated to weigh 73 tonnes (72 long tons; 80 short tons). The total estimate length of Alamosaurus is estimated at 30 m (98 ft) long. Scott Hartman estimates Alamosaurus being slightly shorter at 28–30 m (92–98 ft) and is equal in weight to other massive titanosaurs such as Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus. However, he says that at the moment, scientists do not know whether the massive tibia belongs to an Alamosaurus or a completely new species of sauropod.

Reconstructed and restored skeletons of Tyrannosaurus rex harassing a Alamosaurus sanjuanensis by FunkMonk

Though no skull has ever been found, rod-shaped teeth have been found with Alamosaurus skeletons and probably belonged to this dinosaur. The vertebrae from the middle part of its tail had elongated centra. Alamosaurus had vertebral lateral fossae that resembled shallow depressions. Fossae that similarly resemble shallow depressions are known from SaltasaurusMalawisaurusAeolosaurus, and GondwanatitanVenenosaurus also had depression-like fossae, but its “depressions” penetrated deeper into the vertebrae, were divided into two chambers, and extend farther into the vertebral columns. Alamosaurus had more robust radii than Venenosaurus.

FMNH PR2081 compared to Alamosaurus sanjuanensis by Scott Hartman

Alamosaurus remains have been discovered throughout the southwestern United States. The holotype was discovered in June 1921 by Charles Whitney Gilmore, John Bernard Reeside and Charles Hazelius Sternberg at the Barrel Springs Arroyo in the Naashoibito Member of the Ojo Alamo Formation (or Kirtland Formation under a different definition) of New Mexico which was deposited during the Maastrichtian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period. Bones have also been recovered from other Maastrichtian formations, like the North Horn Formation of Utah and the Black Peaks, El Picacho and Javelina Formations of Texas. Undescribed titanosaur fossils closely associated with Alamosaurus have been found in the Evanston Formation in Wyoming. Three articulated caudal vertebrae were collected above Hams Fork, and are housed at the Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley. These specimens have not been described.

Gilmore in 1922 was uncertain about the precise affinities of Alamosaurus and did not determine it any further than a general Sauropoda. In 1927 Friedrich von Huene placed it in the Titanosauridae.

Skeletal elements of Alamosaurus are among the most common Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils found in the United States Southwest and are now used to define the fauna of that time and place, known as the “Alamosaurus fauna”. In the south of Late Cretaceous North America, the transition from the Edmontonian to the Lancian faunal stages is even more dramatic than it was in the north. Thomas M. Lehman describes it as “the abrupt reemergence of a fauna with a superficially ‘Jurassic’ aspect.” These faunas are dominated by Alamosaurus and feature abundant Quetzalcoatlus in Texas. The AlamosaurusQuetzalcoatlus association probably represent semi-arid inland plains.

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