Camarasaurus

The Camarasaurus is a genus of medium sized sauropod dinosaur and weighs no more than about twenty tons.

This spectacular dinosaur in spite of having the average size within the sauropods, in comparison to the others was quite big.

According to the studies, they would have moved in herds or in groups and the most characteristic feature is their vertebrae. The vertebrae of these dinosaurs were noticeably separated, leaving many gaps between each vertebra. This would have made it much lighter and is what gives meaning to its name as we will see in the text.

Basic information about Camarasaurus

The Camarasaurus is one of the dinosaurs about which most information exists. This is because it is one of the most common and of which a lot of fossil remains have been discovered.

A lot of details and data have been collected about this dinosaur, let’s start by looking at its main characteristics.

  • How long is it? – Between approximately 15 and 23 metres. It depends a lot on the type of camarasaurus it is, because there are several species.
  • How tall is it? – The height of the camarasaurus is approximately 7 meters.
  • What is its weight? – The approximate weight is 18 tons, but there are some that reach 47 tons.
  • When did it live? – This dinosaur inhabited the Earth 152 million years ago until 144 million years ago.
  • What is its infraorder? – It belongs to the sauropods, and there are several types of Camarasaurus.

The taxonomy of Camarasaurus

Kingdom Animalia > Filo Chordata > Superorder Dinosauria > Order Saurisquia > Suborder Sauropodomorpha > Suborder Sauropoda > Family Camarasaurus

Within the genus of camarasaurus we find three species:

Camarasaurus supremus
Camarasaurus grandis
Camarasaurus lentus
The fact that they are from the same family means that they have very, very similar features but differ in small details from each other.

Continue reading the entry if you are interested in knowing the differences between each type of Camarasaurus.

The Family: Sauropods

Camarasaurus are classified within the Sauropoda suborder. This is because it meets most of the characteristics of sauropods.

In order to know all the aspects of the Camarasaurus, it is necessary to have a clear idea of the general features of the sauropods.

The main and most distinctive feature of sauropods was their large size. Even the smallest ones were among the largest in their environment. The only animal that would have matched their size would have been a species of whale.

Sauropods could be considered the largest land animals of their time.

This type of dinosaur had four limbs and it used all of them to move around, that is, it was a four-legged animal. Its hind limbs were really wide and most species had three claws on each one.

What really distinguished it from other animals was its front legs. These were not arranged to create a “wide” foot like that of the elephants, but were placed in vertical columns.

All sauropods had spatula shaped teeth that did not allow them to chew properly. Therefore, it is deduced that they fed on vegetables, being classified as herbivorous animals.

In addition, the teeth of sauropods grew back and were replaced regularly. For example, the genus Nigersaurus replaced its teeth every 14 days, while Camarasaurus replaced its teeth every 62 days.

The latter took longer because it had larger teeth, which, apart from taking longer to grow, allowed it to pull leaves from harder (upper) branches than the Nigersaurus.

Sauropods had much longer necks than modern-day giraffes. The fact that it was a large, four-legged animal allowed it to bear the great weight of a long neck.

The evolution of the sauropods’ heads was towards the smallest possible size, becoming lighter and lighter. With this they managed to need less energy to lift their heads and to lighten the load of the neck with less amount of muscular tissue in it.

These dinosaurs are closely related to birds, as they share with them gastrolitis. In the current herbivorous birds we can see this system that consists in that their digestive tracts contain rounded stones called gastrotrocytes and whose function is to help crush the food whose teeth were not able to chew.

In general, the sauropods had a giant size, which if we add a very long neck, very thick legs and a peculiar robust tail, gives it a respectable appearance. In spite of not being an aggressive dinosaur, its large size would intimidate more than one.

Why were they called sauropods?

The first sauropod discovered was the Cetiosaurus, in 1699 by Edward Lhuyd, although obviously at that time it would not have been recognized as an animal and only described the fossil he discovered, a single tooth.

In 1841 nothing was known about the existence of dinosaurs and at that time Richard Owen classified it as a giant marine reptile and called it Cetiosaurus (whale lizard).

What is really curious is that a year later, he himself “invented” the word and classification of animals Dinosauria, although he did not include the Cethyosaurs in that group.

From 1850 onwards it is officially considered a dinosaur, although during the following years it would jump from one group to another in a wrong way.

It was not until 1878 that Marsh found and described a Diplodocus thanks to a fairly complete specimen. Marsh then linked and created a group of dinosaurs with Diplodocus and Cethyosaurs that would be called Sauropoda. The word Sauropoda means lizard foot.

Description of the Camarasaurus and its types

Now that we know a little more about the group of dinosaurs to which the Camarasaurus belong, let’s talk a little more about the characteristics and features of the Camarasaurus.

The main feature of this dinosaur was the kind of vertebrae it possessed. Camarasaurus had hollowed out vertebrae. The vertebrae had a fairly large separation between them, leaving a lot of air between each one. This gave it a lighter skeleton, but also a certain fragility to blows.

The arch of the skull of the Camarasaurus had a quadratic shape and in the part of the muzzle they had fenestrations (windows, hollows). These skulls could appear fragile at first sight like the skeleton, but this is not the case.

It had a rather rigid structure and one of the evidences is that the remains found have the skulls in optimal conditions.

As we mentioned in the description of the sauropods, their teeth were growing back. It was also commented that Camarasaurus took 62 days to regenerate due to their large size.

The size of their teeth was 19 centimeters and they were evenly placed by the jaw. However, even though they were quite long, they were not able to chew because they were chisel-shaped teeth (flat tip) and they also had to resort to gastrolitis, like their brothers.

Even so, the strength of their teeth was much greater than that of the other sauropods, being able to pull out leaves of greater hardness.

These extinct friends had, like us, five toes on each front foot. On the middle toe they had a sharp claw, and like most sauropods, their front legs were shorter than their hind legs.

Still, their shoulders were too high so it follows that there was not much forward diving (their back is rather horizontal with some forward tilt).

Regarding the reproductive aspect, camarasaurus would have been able to reproduce from the age of twenty and generally lived an average of 26 years.

It was thought that they might have had two brains.

This is because they have an extension of the spinal cord close to their hips. Paleontologists dismissed this hypothesis for a more logical one, that it was simply an intense area that is part of the nervous system.

That is, because it is so large, it is possible that they needed a “cerebellum” or something similar to control reflexes or automatic activities (what we would call “unconscious”).

Why were they called camerasaurus?

Did you know that Camarasaurus means chamber lizard? But no, this name does not mean that it was a dinosaur that took pictures (although it would have been a feat worth telling).

The main characteristic of this family of dinosaurs is that they all have verbs that are noticeably separated, leaving many holes.

Besides making its skeleton much lighter, it gives meaning to its name, the camera lizard. Kamara refers to a Greek word that means vaulted chamber.

As we mentioned earlier, there are three types of Camarasaurus. They are all closely related and obviously share the characteristics of sauropods (as they are a type of sauropod). Let’s look at the characteristics of each type of Camarasaurus.

Characteristics of Camarasaurus supremus

As one can deduce from its name, the supremus is the largest of the three species. 23 meters is the maximum that would reach to measure of length and its average weight of 47 tons approximately.

The features are not much more distinguished from its brothers but in its enormous size.

Characteristics of Camarasaurus grandis

Camarasaurus grandis is smaller than C.supremus, and probably the oldest species of the three. C.grandis are practically the same as lentus, except for a small difference in the structure of the spine.

Characteristics of Camarasaurus lentus

The Camarasaurus lentus cohexisted with the C.grandis for a few million years. The C.supremus seems to be a direct evolution of the C.lentus. The C.lentus were disappearing to make way for the C.supremus, so we can take as a hypothesis that only the biggest ones survived.

Interesting details about the Camarasaurus

Camarasaurus have a long neck to better reach the vegetation that is in high places. This probably made them survive when there were no more plants to eat in low places and they had to reach higher heights. However, their own neck that helps them so much also has its bad part… The neck they have is very rigid, that is, inflexible, which makes it an easy and slow prey.

It is thought, because of the arrangement of the eggs in a straight line, that these dinosaurs would probably have laid their eggs while walking. Several fossilized eggs have been found that were lined up. From this fact we can deduce that the mothers did not take care of their young because they did not have a nest.

According to palaeontologists, these giant lizards were able to reproduce from the age of 20. As for their estimated life span, it would be 26 years.

It is also interesting to note that despite “having two brains” (which we have already seen is actually one brain and one nervous system), they were not very intelligent. Like most sauropods, they had a small brain.

When and where did this quadruped live?

It is really difficult to imagine the changes that can take place from century to century, it is something very complicated.

Do you think a Roman from ancient Rome could get used to the idea of using a smartphone?

He’d probably be so scared that he’d split it in two with his spear. But we’re not talking about the Romans of the Middle Ages any more, which even if they seem distant, compared to the existence of this quadruped is a blink of an eye.

The last time the Earth saw this sauropod was 145 million years ago and after having seen him for 10 million years in action. And that’s because you don’t go back to the Middle Ages, even to the time of the birth of the baby Jesus.

We go far beyond the Greek philosophers to enter the Mesozoic Era.

But within the Mesozoic Era we find that for 168 million years the dinosaurs lived, of which these extinct species lived only 10.

Within this period there are three epochs of which the Camarasaurus lived in the Upper Period, which lasted approximately 10 million years where our friends lived happily. To simplify all this we can say in the Superior Jurassic (the Mesozoic Era is understood if we talk about dinosaurs).

If we talk about the area where he lived, it is in the Morrison Formation. Specifically an eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains, where many Jurassic fossils have been found. This is located in North America.

Several Camarasaurus remains have been found in close proximity. From this it is deduced that these animals were social with their own kind and traveled in groups or herds to keep themselves safe from possible predators.

The other dinosaurs in their natural habitat

This dinosaur cohabited with one of the most dangerous predatory dinosaurs, the Allosaurus. According to the records, both dinosaurs cohabited during the same time because of the Morrison Formation. Other enemies were also the Ceratosaurus and the Torvosaurus.

The only defense this dinosaur had against those aggressive predators was its front legs that possessed five toes, with a large sharp claw on the middle finger.

This is what they would have used in order to defend themselves, probably without much success.

They weren’t all enemies, obviously. They also co-existed with other sauropods such as the Diplodocus, Barosauirus, Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and the Brontosaurus. He lived with herbivorous dinosaurs like Drysaurus, Othnielosaurus, Stegosaurus and Camptosaurus.

What did the camarasaurus feed on?

Well, having talked about where they live, let’s talk about what camarasaurus eat. As previously stated this dinosaur is a sauropod and these are herbivores. As it could not be less, the camarasaurus being a sauropod is also a sauropod.

At first it was considered that they made use of gastropods just like the vast majority of sauropods, but after several studies have left it as a possible hypothesis.

The other hypothesis is that they didn’t use gastrolitis, since these dinosaurs have very robust teeth, much more than the rest of the sauropods, and they could have chewed and swallowed the food (plants) without the help of the gastrotrolitics.

In addition, their teeth were replaced by new ones every 62 days.

The main vegetation ingested by these extinct animals were conifers and ferns, with their long spoon-shaped teeth.

It is also very likely that since they were not as tall as other dinosaurs (and could not access the tall vegetation), their way of surviving was to feed on the thicker vegetation, which other sauropods could not pull out with their teeth.

Who discovered the chamber lizard?

The area of its discovery is quite clear, in the Morrison Formation. Most (if not all) of the fossils of this dinosaur family were discovered there, in the Rocky Mountains.

The first reference that exists about the camarasaurus is from the year 1877. The paleontologist Oramel W. Lucas finds a few vertebrae scattered around Colorado.

At that time there was a great rivalry between two famous paleontologists, the famous Bone Wars. Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were in an eternal “pique” to see who is the best paleontologist that the last one moved quickly to the place where Oramel W. Lucas found the first camarasaurus vertebrae to buy them.

That is why perhaps in some versions you will find Edward Drinker Cope as the discoverer, being that it really was Oramel W. Lucas.

Othniel Charles Marsh also made a few discoveries soon after. Marsh found what he would call Morosaurus grandis. Today, almost all paleontologists consider Marsh’s Morosaurus grandis as a kind of Camarasaurus.

There is no doubt that Camarasaurus was discovered in 1877 (with credit going to Drinker or Oramel), but it was not until 48 years later that a complete skeleton was first found.

It was in 1925 when a complete skeleton of a young Camarasaurus was first found thanks to Charles W. Gilmore.

The discovery of the other species

Okay, we’re clear on when this dinosaur was discovered, but we still need to talk about its species. The first camarasaurus was the supreme species (1877). In 1889 the lentus was found and finally in 1988 the lewisi.

What do you think about the History of Camarasaurus? Do you think some information is missing? Use the comments if you have any doubt or contribution to make about this magnificent quadruped.