Amphicoelias

The world’s largest dinosaur

amphicoelias-image

  • Name: Amphicoelias
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Weight: 120 tons
  • Period: Jurassic
  • Found In: United States

The genus Amphicoelias encompasses the species belonging to the sauropod dinosaurs, and it is also the largest dinosaur and even the largest land animal that has ever existed on the planet, although its existence is even questioned today.

The name of Amphicoelias comes from the Greek and literally means “hollow character on both sides” due to the holes that had the first vertebrae found of this animal, which happened in about 1877.

The Amphicoelias lived during the Jurassic Period approximately 150 million years ago, in the territory we know today as North America.

Do you want to know more about this prehistoric animal of abysmal dimensions? Below you will find extensive and detailed information about the Amphicoelias.

Taxonomy of Amphicoelias

  • As far as the kingdom of this dinosaur is concerned, we obviously know that it is Animalia.
  • This Amphicoelias dinosaur belongs to the Filo or Chordata Division.
  • As for its Class, this dinosaur belongs to the Sauropsida.
  • The Amphicoelias is found within the Superorder Dinosauria.
  • The Amphicoeliad is found within the Order Saurischia.
  • The suborder of the Amphicoeliac is Sauropodomorpha.
  • The Under-Order of the Amphicoeliac is the Sauropodomorpha.
  • The family to which this dinosaur belongs is Diplodocdae.
  • The subfamily of the Amphicoeliac is Diplodocinae.

Controversies in Amphicoelias Taxonomy

If we do a little memory we can remember that back in 1878 a not so popular scientist named Edward Drinker managed to find and describe this finding in a magazine that was published within the territory of the United States of America, this magazine was called “American Naturalist”, which in Spanish would mean the following: “Naturalista Americano”.

It is from these publications that the story begins, about this dinosaur Amphicoelias, in this magazine Drinker was responsible for placing those remains within a new genus that bears the name of the dinosaur we are analyzing today, in addition to this it was assigned in an additional way a family called Diplodocidae.

However, the remains found were not in the best condition in the world, in fact only small fragments were available that prevented a detailed, concise and more accurate study.

It is for this reason that many other scientists closer to the present day have decided to place these remains within a genus called under the strange name of “diplodócido incertae sedis”, which actually means “of uncertain placement”, due to the reasons explained.

Trying to focus on the discovery in a more precise way, we must know that the first species that existed regarding this dinosaur was found and studied for the first time in the year 1877, we are talking about nothing more and nothing less than the Amphicoelias altus, whose remains have the following denomination: AMHD 5764 (holotype).

This finding actually consists of a partial skeleton, as is quite normal, but still presents several characteristics so that it can be described and pigeonholed into one genus or another.

This Amphicoelias altus has also been studied through another individual that was found in 1921 and that has much better preserved vestiges, although its size was not as small as the previous one, we are talking about the famous A. fragillimus.

During these years, two serious researchers named Osborn and Mook decided to name the new find because this skeleton turned out to be quite fragile, but in addition to that they pointed out that this last discovered skeleton had a bigger size, since the Amphicoelias altus was only about 20 meters high.

In the last few years, an excellent paleontologist named Carpenter appeared on the scene, and in the history of this dinosaur, who was in charge of issuing strong criticism towards the discoveries and conclusions of the aforementioned researchers, citing that there are many considerable differences to place this new genus within a totally separate species, this he said when referring to A. fragillimus.

But after a short time, this palaeontologist started to reflect a little more about what he had said and retracted it, he started to understand that it was impossible to determine that A. fragillimus belonged to which separate species, it was impossible due to the fact that you don’t actually have a specimen or a complete individual to study in depth.

That is why in the scientific world it is still not known for sure within which species this individual is found.

On the other hand, thanks to a very recent discovery we were able to have at hand about 5 individuals of a totally new species of Amphicoelias, individuals that were found in the Dana Quarry, which is located in the Morrison Formation, this helped to a great extent to classify with much greater ease all these individuals and the previous ones that had been discovered.

Several of these newly discovered individuals had a characteristic quality: plesiomorphs (ancient characters within a group, shared by all), which led scientists to conclude that the Amphicoelias brontodiplodocus should be placed within the Diplodocdae family, because of these characters.

In addition, it was discovered that the genus Diplodocus and another genus named Barosaurus are actually synonymous with Amphicoelias itself.

There is also another characteristic of the Apatosaurus and also of the Supersaurus: sexual dimorphism, a characteristic that leads scientists to consider the possibility that these two could also be synonyms of the Amphicoelias itself.

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The loud and avoidable bone war

Actually this dinosaur (the one we study today) was quite affected in its research and in the following conclusions reached, because its discovery was made within the so-called and famous “War of the Bones”.

To be more precise, this was one of the dark and shameful periods of the science of Paleontology, a time when two great eminent persons or speakers faced each other in a dirty and unfair competition that ended up doing more harm than good to this discipline.

These two great eminences were the renowned Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, of whom we spoke a few moments ago.

This competition led both of them to commit a series of atrocities that later the scientific world was going to reprove and punish by any means necessary. Among these acts we can remember that bribes, thefts and even spying on the opponent were committed in order to be the scientist who made the most discoveries, in addition to many verbal attacks that did a lot of damage to science in general.

In the end, as in every war, there is a winner, and this was Dr. Othniel Charles Marsh, who managed to have under his belt a total of 86 new species, and this happened because he was certain of exploring a territory called “Como Bluff”; a place that is exactly located in an area quite close to “Medicine Bow Wyoming”, one of the sources of fossils with more density until today.

On the other hand we have the loser, who was not really a loser, since he managed to discover a total of 56 new species, although many other scientists do not take his discoveries as valid due to the lack of evidence in his findings, besides the fact that the origin of these findings had the particularity of being totally uncertain, we are talking about Edward Drinker Cope.

In spite of this, it was Edward Drinker Cope who was actually the discoverer of the most famous specimens in our popular culture. We already tell you that the well-known Triceratops and even the Allosaurus were found within the expeditions of this scientist, without forgetting to mention the Diplodocus and the Stegosaurus, which were also discovered by this great scientist.

Among other discoveries of Edward Drinker Cope we have the Dimetrodon, besides the Camarasaurus and one named under the name of Monoclonius; finally we also have the Amphicoelias fragillimus, which will always be surrounded by a cloud of doubts because the discovery did not fulfill the authenticity that many other scientists demand.

The life of the Amphicoelias on planet Earth

As previously mentioned, the huge Amphicoelias developed its majestic existence in what we know today in North America, extending over practically the entirety of that territory without a doubt.

What is known with total certainty is that it was present in the stratigraphic zone with number 6 of the Morrison Formation.

The existence of this dinosaur in our planet dates back to approximately 150 million years ago, as we had already pointed out at the beginning of this article, during the Jurassic period, especially at the end of it, being the same considered as a period characterized by a clear dinosaur hegemony, although this can be observed in the entire Mesozoic Era or Dinosaur Era.

Who discovered this dinosaur?

Let’s first note that A. fragillimus may have been one of the longest individuals among all terrestrial vertebrates that existed, measuring approximately 40, 50, and 60 meters in length, and weighing about 120 tons.

amphicoelias-big-dinosaur

We say this because in reality the whereabouts of the bones are not known, and studies were only carried out based on some graphs that were made in a descriptive notebook, graphs that were made in the year 1870.

We must first know that the remains of the Amphicoelias fragillimus were first collected by a subject named Oramel Lucas, who performed his main duties as a fossil collector, and worked for none other than Edward Drinker Cope, the paleontologist who was the protagonist of the War of the Bones.

This collection of fossils carried out by this Drinker’s collaborator was completed in 1877, from which time a series of interesting facts for the history of this science called Paleontology were developed.

Oramel Lucas was a great observer and he noticed a vertebra that had been found in a partial way, the peculiar and curious thing of this vertebra was its size, of a meter and a half of height approximately, something that surprised the collector.

Motivated by this surprise, he decided to carry out a series of studies and suppositions based on it, which was found in Colorado, in a place that was located in an area near the mine where the Camarasaurus was discovered, which we have mentioned before.

Edward Drinker Cope realized what had happened very quickly and decided to carry out his own studies and investigations. He reached the conclusion that the vertebra could have measured up to 2.5 meters.

It was Oramel Lucas who was really in charge of sending this individual, just in the summer of 1978, at the beginning of the year.

Immediately Edward Drinker Cope was in charge of publishing it and to take advantage of the moment to be able to “to propose the first blow”, especially when he was immersed in a “war of discoveries”.

At first Edward Drinker Cope considered placing this dinosaur and claiming that it belonged to the dark Dakota formation, but the presence of other specimens of different genera in nearby rocks came to indicate that it was much more likely that it had belonged to the Morrison Formation.

As we well know from some media, at that time the famous neural arch found was totally packed with resistant materials in order to support the train trip to which it was going to be exposed, and then it was placed in one of the most famous museums of the great American city of New York.

However, in spite of the fact that they tried to take care of the neural arch as much as possible, the efforts were really in vain, because in an attempt to dust off the discovery it ended up being completely destroyed.

This implies that we now only know about this discovery through drawings and graphs that were made by hand by members of the research team, drawings found in one of the scientific journals.

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It is for that reason that this animal has left many doubts and mysteries since it began to be talked about, it is not known if it was real, but if it was, scientists assure that it could have been one of the longest vertebrates in history (as we had already mentioned, with approximately 60 meters), besides not forgetting its great tonnage. It has even been compared to the blue whale.

But as we have already told in previous paragraphs, the evidence was lost on the way and nobody could remedy these events.

Characteristics of the Amphicoelias dinosaur

Now it is our turn to comment on Henry Fairfield Osborn, who together with C. Mook noticed some similar qualities between our star dinosaur of today and another dinosaur called Diplodocus.

The differences found were the ones that really set the standard in the comparison, since the length of the legs, as well as other measurements of them, were superior in the Amphicoelias and less in the Diplodocus.

Being more precise, the femur bone of the Amphicoelias dinosaur was much longer, and at the same time it was very thin, but the characteristic that the Diplodocus lacked was the round shape of its cross section.

On the other hand, the Amphicoelias altus also enjoyed a size quite similar to the size of the Diplodocus, due to the fact that it was calculated to be approximately 25 meters in length.

However, there is a majority of scientists that have used these characteristics to take the license to differentiate and divide the Amphicoelias and the Diplodocus, but there is a minority group that might be right, and that is that they suggest that these two dinosaurs are actually synonymous.

Starting to study Amphicoelias fragillimus, as we already know, it has only been studied through a neural spine that, besides being insufficient proof, is incomplete.

From it, many inaccurate conclusions have been drawn, but one of the ones that would come close to reality is that this bone could have been almost 3 meters long and no less than meter and a half high.

Another distal end bone of a huge femur was also found, which is presumed to belong to this same dinosaur.

After more than a century, the lights of science came back on the Amphicoelias, this time with a new specimen found in a place called Dana Quarry, which was to enrich and provide more data about this genus.

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Many doubts arise about the gigantism of some extinct animals such as sauropods, that is why a scientist like Carpenter was in charge of performing several examinations to the paleobiology of these specimens, including the Amphicoelias, with the only and interesting objective of finding out the main reason why this dinosaur and the other sauropods reached extensive dimensions.

After conducting several studies and inquiries to this type of animals, he also took on the task of comparing some large mammals that still survive to this day, in order to have a much clearer perspective of what size means in the wild.

After some time the great Carpenter discovered in a unique way that animals like the elephant and even animals like the rhinoceros had (or performed) a better digestion of the food they consumed, due to the large size they possessed, this fact was especially fulfilled when we talk about herbivorous animals.

Carpenter explained in a much simpler way what we have just mentioned: because the digestive system of large animals is obviously much longer, vegetable foods are forced to go through much longer digestion processes, both in time and space.

This gave a great advantage to large animals, because their organisms were responsible for sucking or selecting all the necessary elements they needed to survive, without wasting any type of vitamin or protein.

From this, other younger researchers decided to carry out studies on other large animals of similar characteristics, and therefore they discovered that even in their organisms inhabited microbes that participated in the digestive processes and facilitated the task.

About Sauropods

On the other hand, if we analyze a little bit the places where remains and vestiges of sauropods have been discovered, we will soon realize that there is actually a pattern, since these discoveries have generally been made in certain types of environments that share the quality of being semi-arid.

We are even talking about environments that had extensive periods of drought, but with a rain that appeared at the right time to prevent the species from lacking the necessary food.

In particular, the Amphicoelias lived in a rather arid area, not to say that it lived in a savannah, precisely in places where we find the great herbivores of today, and we realize that in a dry environment with very low quality food we can find large animals of herbivorous food, a very interesting fact if we want to go deeper into this world.

In addition to this, the old Carpenter continued to give us other lessons, and he pointed out some other advantages that the large size of sauropods gave them, such as survival.

He pointed out some other advantages which the large size of sauropods gave them, such as survival. That was because the size of sauropods prevented them from being attacked by other predators, they used much less energy than smaller animals, and for all those reasons they managed to have a successful and long life without many complications.

Finally, this great paleontologist points out that there is a great chance that the dinosaur Amphicoelias could have used as a kind of curtain the forests around it, with the only and intelligent objective of regulating its body temperature.

This prevented the intense heat of the desert from taking away the energy it required to perform other functions, as well as providing it with food at night.