Project N1: Sauropod Neck Mobility and Feeding Strategies
|Title||Analysis of sauropod neck mobility based on virtual 3D-models and reconstruction of feeding strategies|
|Principal Investigator||Dr. Andreas Christian|
The very long neck and its utilization are crucial for understanding the evolution of gigantism in sauropods. Yet, the benefit of the long neck is still discussed controversially. Clearly, the long neck allowed increasing the feeding volume of a standing sauropod. The main benefit, however, might have been the accessibility of food resources in great heights that could not be exploited by other herbivores, though mechanical as well as physiological arguments have been put forward against the idea of high browsing sauropods. In this study, the mobility of some well preserved sauropod necks will be reanalyzed by virtual 3D-models of neck vertebrae. The models will be based on scans of original vertebrae or casts of vertebrae. In the models, deformations will be eliminated, incomplete vertebrae will be reconstructed, and the vertebrae will be arranged to 3D-models of sauropod neck skeletons. Soft tissues will be added. Based on these neck models, refined analyses of sauropod neck mobility and feeding volumes will be conducted. The models will be validated by comparative studies on recent vertebrates with long necks: giraffes, camels, and ostriches. For different hypothetical distributions of food, the energy benefit of hypothetical feeding strategies will be estimated and related to neck length and body size. The results will show whether using a very long neck could have been the trigger or the major driving factor for the evolution of gigantism in sauropods.