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Titanosauria

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Titanosauria - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Titanosaurs were a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs, including genera from Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Australia and Antarctica. The titanosaurians were the last surviving group of long-necked sauropods, with taxa still thriving at the time of the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. This group includes some of the largest land animals known to have ever existed, such as Patagotitan—estimated at 37 m (121 ft) long with a weight of 69 tonnes (76 tons)—and the comparably-sized Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus from the same region.

The group’s name alludes to the mythological Titans of ancient Greek mythology, via the type genus (now considered a nomen dubium) Titanosaurus. Together with the brachiosaurids and relatives, titanosaurians make up the larger sauropod clade Titanosauriformes. Titanosaurs have long been a poorly-known group, and the relationships between titanosaur species are still not well-understood.

Titanosaurs had small heads, even when compared with other sauropods. The head was also wide, similar to the heads of Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus, though somewhat more elongated. Titanosaurian nostrils were large (“macronarian”) and all had crests formed by the nasal bones. Their teeth were either somewhat spatulate (spoon-like) or like pegs or pencils, but were always very small.

Titanosaur necks were of average length for sauropods, and their tails were whip-like though not as long as in the diplodocids. While the pelvis was slimmer than some sauropods, the pectoral (chest) area was much wider, giving them a uniquely “wide-legged” stance. As a result, the fossilized trackways of titanosaurians are distinctly broader than other sauropods. Their forelimbs were also stocky, and often longer than their hind limbs. Unlike other sauropods, some titanosaurs had no digits, walking only on horseshoe-shaped “stumps” made up of the columnar metacarpal bones. Their vertebrae (back bones) were solid (not hollowed-out), which may be a reversal to more basal saurischian characteristics. Their spinal column was relatively flexible, likely making them more agile than other sauropods and more able to rear onto their hind legs. One of the most characteristic features shared by most titanosaurs were their procoelous caudal vertebrae, with ball-and-socket articulations between the vertebral centra.

From skin impressions found with fossils, it has been determined that the skin of many titanosaurians was armored with a small mosaic of small, bead-like scales surrounding larger scales. While most titanosaurs were very large animals, many were fairly average in size compared to other giant dinosaurs. Some island-dwelling dwarf titanosaurs, such as Magyarosaurus, were probably the result of allopatric speciation and insular dwarfism.

Titanosauria - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program
Titanosauria - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program
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