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a plant-eating dicraeosaurid sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of Tanzania.
Pronunciation: die-KREE-oh-SOR-us
Meaning: Bifurcated lizard
Author/s: Janensch (1914)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Lindi, Tanzania
Chart Position: 83

Dicraeosaurus hansemanni

Dicraeosaurus, discovered in the famous Tendaguru Beds of Tanzania, is a diplodocoid but not your run-of-the-mill diplodocoid. A short neck, short whip-less tail and relatively large head set it apart from fellow diplodocoids like Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, but its most outstanding feature is a forked or Y-shaped spine on each neck vertebra, all of which slope forwards away from the body, apart from the four closest to the skull which, weirdly, slope backwards, which is why Dicraeosaurus — "the bifurcated lizard" — was so named.

The reason for such a design is uncertain but these forked spines, once suspected of supporting a short sail or fatty ridge, most probably anchored pure muscle which would have resulted in an incredibly deep, wide and strong neck. Living alongside the much larger, tree top-hogging Giraffatitan (with its long neck and spatulate teeth) and the much smaller, ground-grazing Kentrosaurus (with its short neck and scallop-edged roughly triangular teeth) the peg-toothed Dicraeosaurus was seemingly built to take advantage of mid-height vegetation so the three could co-exist without eating each other into extinction.

In a monumental instance of foresight Werner Janensch used Dicraeosaurus to anchor its own family group — Dicraeosauridae — in 1929, which was a brave shout bearing in mind no other members were known at the time. However, the smaller Amargasaurus from Neuquén and the smaller still Brachytrachelopan from Chubut were later assigned here because they both exhibit similar features, and while this may seem strange given their Argentinian provenance, South America was still joined to Africa (along with Antarctica, Madagascar and Australia) as a continent known as Gondwana until the turn of the Early Cretaceous.
Dicraeosaurus is derived from the Greek "dikraios" (bifurcated, forked, split) and "sauros" (lizard) which refers to the forked or 'Y'-shaped spines on its vertebrae.
The species epithet, hansemanni, honors expedition sponsor Dr. David von Hansemann.
The first fossils of Dicraeosaurus hansemanni were discovered in Tendaguru Quarry M in the "Middle Saurian Bed" of the Tendaguru Formation, Kindope, Lindi Town, 105 km north of Mtara City, Tanzania, by Werner Janensch and Edwin Hennig between 1909 and 1912. The holotype (HMN) is a partial skeleton.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Jurassic
Stage: Kimmeridgian
Age range: 155-151 mya
Est. max. length: 14 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 5 tons
Diet: Herbivore
• W. Janensch (1914) "Übersicht über die Wirbeltierfauna der Tendaguru-Schichten". [Overview of the vertebrate fauna of the Tendaguru beds].
• W. Janensch (1929) "The vertebral column of the genus Dicraeosaurus". Scientific results of the Tendaguru expedition 1909-1912.
• Janensch, W. (1935-36) "Die Schädel der Sauropoden Brachiosaurus, Barosaurus und Dicraeosaurus aus den Tendaguru-Schichten Deutsch-Ostafrikas".
• Gerhard Maier (2003) "African Dinosaurs Unearthed: The Tendaguru Expeditions".
• G.S. Paul (2010) "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs".
• Daniela Schwarz, Jens C. D. Kosch, Guido Fritsch & Thomas Hildebrandt (2015) "Dentition and tooth replacement of Dicraeosaurus hansemanni (Dinosauria, Sauropoda, Diplodocoidea) from the Tendaguru Formation of Tanzania".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "DICRAEOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 20th Feb 2018.