Datousaurus: Sauropod with Big Head & Bendy Neck

Datousaurus was a sauropod dinosaur that lived in China during the Middle Jurassic period, about 166 to 162 million years ago. It was one of the first dinosaurs scientifically investigated from China, and had a relatively complete skull. It had a deep large skull for a sauropod, which gave it its name meaning “chieftain lizard” or “big-head lizard”.

Basic Information

Time PeriodMiddle Jurassic (166 – 162 million years ago)
Length15 meters (49 feet)
Weight3 tons (6,000 pounds)
HabitatsForests and plains

Description of Datousaurus

Historical Context

Datousaurus was one of the earliest sauropods, a group of long-necked, four-legged dinosaurs that reached enormous sizes. It was named by Dong Zhiming and Tang in 1984, based on a partial skeleton found in a clay pit in Dashanpu, China. The name means “chieftain lizard” or “big-head lizard”, after its Chinese nickname qiulong, which also means “chieftain dragon”. Datousaurus is also a pun on its large head, as da tou means “big head” in Chinese. Only one species of Datousaurus has been recognized, D. bashanensis.

Physical Attributes

Datousaurus was a large dinosaur, measuring about 15 meters in length and weighing about 3 tons. It had a robust body with four sturdy legs and a long tail. Its head was small and narrow, with a beak-like mouth and long, serrated teeth. Its most notable feature was its large head, which made up a significant portion of its body size. Its skull was boxy in shape and had nostrils located at the top, indicating that it may have been adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Datousaurus also had a long neck, which had 13 vertebrae, and a relatively short tail. Its legs were columnar and ended in broad, hoof-like feet. Its skin was scaly and had polygonal patterns.

Feeding Habits

Datousaurus was a herbivore that fed on low-growing plants and shrubs. It used its beak to snip off branches and leaves and its teeth to strip and grind them. It had a large gut that could digest tough plant material. It may have also swallowed stones to help with digestion, as some gastroliths (stomach stones) have been found associated with its fossils. Datousaurus may have lived in herds or groups for protection and social interaction.

Unique Features

One of the unique features of Datousaurus was its large head, which gave it a distinctive appearance among sauropods. Its skull was deep and wide, with prominent cheekbones and eye sockets. Its nostrils were placed high on the skull, suggesting that it could breathe while partially submerged in water². Another unique feature of Datousaurus was its neck flexibility. Unlike most other sauropods, which had stiff necks supported by tendons, Datousaurus had a more flexible neck that could bend from side to side. This may have given it more maneuverability and agility, as well as allowing it to reach different heights of vegetation.

Movement and Speed

Datousaurus was a fast runner for its size, capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour (19 miles per hour). It had long and powerful hind legs that propelled it forward. Its forelimbs were shorter and had four fingers each. It could use them to grasp food or support itself when resting. Datousaurus also had good balance and coordination, thanks to its long tail that acted as a counterweight.

Cultural Impact

Datousaurus has been featured in several books, movies, games and toys as one of the most impressive sauropods. It has appeared in popular media such as Jurassic World Evolution, Walking with Dinosaurs, Primeval, and Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. It has also been displayed in many museums around the world, such as the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in China, where a life-sized model of Datousaurus is exhibited.

Interesting Facts

  • Datousaurus is related to other early sauropods such as Shunosaurus , Omeisaurus , and Protognathosaurus . They are collectively known as mamenchisaurids.
  • Datousaurus may have had sexual dimorphism or individual variation in its skull shape and size, as some specimens show different features of these structures.
  • Datousaurus lived alongside other dinosaurs such as Gasosaurus , Xiaosaurus , Huayangosaurus , and Allosaurus . They all inhabited the Lower Shaximiao Formation, a rich fossil site in China.

Related Dinosaurs

  • Troodon : A small, feathered carnivore known for its speed and agility.
  • Triceratops : A herbivore with three horns and a large frill, often considered the nemesis of the T-Rex.
  • Brontosaurus : A massive, long-necked herbivore that towered over most other dinosaurs.
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