A dinosaur that roamed parts of the world 160 million years ago is thought to have the longest neck of any animal, according to scientists.
The neck of the dinosaur, Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum, was 15.1 meters long, six times longer than that of a giraffe and 1.5 times longer than that of a double-decker bus.
The animal belonged to the subgroup of dinosaurs known as sauropods, known for their large size, long neck and tail, four-legged standing and a plant-based diet.
Dippy – the famous dinosaur on display at London’s Natural History Museum – falls into this category.
Dr Andrew J Moore, a paleontologist at Stony Brook University in New York, said: “With a 15-meter-long neck, Mamenchisaurus looks like it might be the record holder — at least until longer creatures are found.”
The fossil of M. sinocanadorum, distributed in East Asia, was first discovered in 1987 in 162-million-year-old rocks in China.
Dr Moore and his colleagues re-examined the specimens as part of their dinosaur study.
Although M. sinocanadorum is known from only a few bones in the neck and skull, scientists were able to reconstruct its size and shape with the help of the complete skeleton of its closest relative.
Dr Moore said: “All sauropods were large, but jaw-droppingly long necks didn’t evolve just once.
“Mamenchisaurus is important because they broke the neck length limit and were the first sauropod lineage to do so.”
The paleontologists used a technique called computed tomography, which revealed that M. sinocanadorum’s vertebrae — the back bones — were lightweight and hollow, with air spaces occupying nearly three-quarters of their volume.
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According to the researchers, these types of bones are commonly found in small birds.
To compensate for its lightweight skeleton, M. sinocanadorum’s neck had rod-shaped ribs about four meters long to help keep it stable, the team says.
The largest dinosaur that ever lived was Patagotitan mayorum, which is thought to have been 37.5 meters long and weighed about 57 tons.
The study was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.