Remains point to one of largest dinosaurs ever

Wednesday, November 3rd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- When University of Oklahoma paleontologist Richard Cifelli got a field report on dinosaur remains found in
southeastern Oklahoma, his first reaction was a skeptical "right, there's nothing like that." Nothing like that unearthed before now.

Cifelli says they found neck bones of a Sauroposeidon, or thunder lizard. The giraffe-like creature stood 60 feet tall and
weighed 60 tons. Cifelli says it was "among the biggest or arguably the biggest" dinosaurs ever.

"This guy took that general Brachiosaurus trend and pushed it to the max," Cifelli said today. The better-known Brachiosaurus was about 45 feet tall. Cifelli said the Sauroposeidon had a neck that was conservatively 40 feet long.

"One of the neatest things about this is that it sort of really shows how they could push the outside of the envelope on this sort of specialization." He said there was an "incredible compromise between making the neck strong enough to function and also be light enough so that you can lift the whole apparatus up."

The dinosaur remains were found in 1994 about 10 miles west of Antlers in Atoka County. The university already had been examining remains found on the Howard McLeod Correctional Center when it got
a call about the discovery on adjacent land. Cifelli said the first report was of a rib an inch wide and 5 feet long. Cifelli said the largest of the vertebrae found was 5 feet long. "It looked like a trunk of a tree," he said.

He said individual neck ribs were 12 feet long and overlap as they extend back. Beneath the neck were a set of leaf springs three ribs thick on each side. "You almost never find the cervical ribs," he said.

The piece pulled out in an enormous block was perfectly put together, but just ended. Cifelli said they spent the next several years trying to find the rest of the remains. They used remote sensing techniques, ground penetrating radar and even a bulldozer to find more of the dinosaur. Every so often, they go back and look for more. "I feel like the rest of it still has to be there somewhere," he said. The remains that were found were going into rock. Cifelli said that would mean the rest would not have eroded.

Cifelli said about a year ago he gave the project to an undergraduate student who needed a research project. A paper was
submitted and Cifelli said the findings are expected to be presented in the March issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Cifelli said there are different ways of measuring the biggest dinosaur. He said the Sauroposeidon was definitely the tallest and
definitely had the longest neck. He said there were probably heavier dinosaurs and definitely longer ones.