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|Pronunciation||Mah – men – chi – sore – us|
What’s in a Name?
Mamenchisaurus was first discovered in 1953 in China. It is a sauropod. That means it ate plants, and it walked mostly on all four legs. This dinosaur was found near a river, and the name of the river was a Chinese name that sounds like Â’MamenÂ’. The actual riverÂ’s name means ‘horse-neighing brook’, but C.C. Young mistook the pronunciation and used the wrong kanji, instead writing Â’horse-gate brook’ by mistake.
The dinosaur was first discovered at a construction site, so the Chinese paleontologist gave it the species name ÂeconstructusÂf. All animals have a Latin name made of two parts: genus and species. This dinosaur became Mamenchisaurus constructus.
The most defining part of this dinosaur is that it has a very long neck. Not just long. It also has a lot of bones in the neck. The bones in the neck are part of the backbone, and are called vertebra. The first dinosaur of this kind discovered by the construction site had 14 vertebra in the neck and the neck was not even complete! By contrast humans have seven vertebra in the neck.
Later, this same species was actually found with 15 vertebrae in the full neck. And, another species, M. Hochuensis, was found with 19 vertebrae in the neck!
Swing to the Food
Scientists think that this long neck was mostly used to let this giant sauropod stand in one place and swing his (or her) neck from side to side and eat without having to move very much. With a neck that was estimated to be 13 m long, it could reach many plants and eat quite a bit without having to walk much.
Mamenchisaurus first appeared in the mid Jurassic period, and seemed to last to the end of the Jurassic period.
One more trait that is a little peculiar is the tail. In the tail several vertebra are fused together. They also have longer than usual parts in the bones, so scientists are not quite sure what the special use of this was. Perhaps it was a sensory organ. On the other hand, it may have formed a weapon. Some sauropods had clubbed tails that they could use as a defensive weapon. But we cannot be sure in the case of this dinosaur.