We Finally Know How Dinosaurs Supported Their Body Weight

Mystery

| LAST UPDATE 09/04/2022

By Veronica Anderson
dinosaur fossils mystery solved
The Print Collector/Print Collector via Getty Images

A recent study finally addressed the age-old question of how dinosaurs carried such overwhelming weight. Researchers have solved the ever-curious mystery of how sauropod dinosaurs, such as the Diplodocus and Brontosaurus, supported their massive body weight ages ago. So let's check out what these scientists had to say...

A research team at the University of Queensland and Monash University worked together to use both 3D modeling and engineering techniques to digitally reconstruct and view the functionality of different sauropods' feet bones. By digitally reconstructing the dinosaurs' feet, researchers found the animals hind feet had a soft tissue pad under the heel, which gave the dinosaur a cushion to hold the weight of the massive animal. For reference, the Diplodocus was around 98 feet in length and weighed 35,000 pounds. So clearly, there was a lot of weight to be held for these Sauropods, who roamed the earth for over 100 million years.

Brontosaurus Dinosaur Weight Size
Universal via Getty Images
Advertisement

At first, these terrestrial animals were thought to have been semi-aquatic, being supported by buoyancy, but later this hypothesis was disproved, and now more answers have prevailed. According to Dr. Andréas Jannel, who conducted the study at UQ's Dinosaur Lab: "We've finally confirmed a long-suspected idea, and we provide, for the first time, biomechanical evidence that a soft tissue pad – particularly in their back feet – would have played a crucial role in reducing locomotor pressures and bone stresses." He continued, "It is mind-blowing to imagine that these giant creatures could have been able to support their own weight on land."

Not only was the research team able to conclude it was their cushion-like heels which gave them the necessary support, but according to Dr. Olga Panagiotopoulou of Monash University, sauropods were thought to have had similar feet to those of an elephant today. Popular culture shows these animals with "almost cylindrical, think, elephant-like feet," but when it comes down to their "skeletal structure, elephants are actually 'tip-toed' on all four feet, whereas sauropods have different foot configurations in their front and back feet." Dr. Panagiotopoulou explained, "Sauropod's front feet are more columnar-like, while they present more 'wedge high heels' at the back supported by a large soft tissue pad." This explains that although they may appear similar, the two species had very different evolutionary origins...

Advertisement