Dear Nessie, Why the long neck?

Well not Nessie exactly, but her long extinct kin, the pleisiosaurs. These prehistoric marine reptiles look rather like brontosaurus with flippers. The long necks on sauropods like apatosaurus and diplodocus are said to allow these giants to browse the treetops. But what the heck did a marine reptile do with such a long neck?

I’m thinking “periscope”…

Or, on the other hand, if you are an extremely large, carnivorous, marine animal it might be pretty hard to change course quickly when you are trying to catch a fish; so a long neck might be very handy for hunting (as you could whip it around pretty fast in pusuit of darting fishyies).

Just a WAG, but sounds reasonable to me. :slight_smile:

It’s for balance, really. Neck length in such animals was driven by the need for long tails. (FTR, apatosaurus et all did not use their necks to eat the top leafs- they couldn’t reach 'em.) Diplodocus, it has been discovered, could actually move it’s tail fast enough to break the speed of sound. (For what? Communication? Who knows?).

The tail in this case was most likely an extremely powerful propellant.

An intriguing question. Try this:,5716,118986+24+110251,00.html

Watch cormorants and mergansers swimming underwater. That long snaky neck is perfect for stabbing and grabbing within a fairly large radius while the bird swims along, increasing his chances of catching something.

DDG, Ice Wolf,

Muchas gracias. I was thinking along the lines of prey catching, but couldn’t come up with any modern animals with analogous adaptations. My four and a half year old will be delighted (the guy just loves all things prehistoric, it’s soooo cute)

Not necessarily the case.

Wow, Sue, is my son going to be excited now. I checked out the article in Science that your cite references. Very interesting. So long-necked terrestrial dinosaurs probably used their necks just to reach the ground. Does that suggest that their great size helped them avoid predation and the long neck was simply an adaptation to achieve great size and yet still be able to eat?

But that link only talks about Apatosaurus and Diplodocus. The ones that are really thought to have been tree-top browsers are Brachiosaurus and its kin. They not only had long necks but also very long forelimbs. IIRC, some may have been 45 feet tall. So that article really doesn’t address the issue of browsing by other sauropods at all.

andygirl, most plesiosaurs had very short tails, so balance wasn’t an issue.

My bad. I wasn’t thinking of plesiosaur.

My dino prof informes me that the other sauropods likewise didn’t do the munching on treetop thing.

I know this really doesn’t add to this thread but I can’t help but look at those first 3 pictures and see the silly grins on these creatures faces. Whats on the other side of the picture that we don’t see that is making them smile?

:::ducks and runs like a lil’ bitch:::