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OPISTHOCOELICAUDIA

a plant-eating titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia.
Pronunciation: o-PIS-tho-SEE-ly-COR-dee-uh
Meaning: Hollow-backed tail
Author/s: Borsuk-Białynicka (1977)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Chart Position: 206

Opisthocoelicaudia skarzynskii

Discovered in 1965 but not described until 1977, Opisthocoelicaudia was originally identified as a new type of camarasaurid closely related to Euhelopus by Magdalena Borsuk-Białynicka from the Polish Academy of Sciences, but later research by Salgado and Coria showed it to be a titanosaur, possibly a saltasaurid.

Unlike most Titan Lizards, the first fifteen of its thirty-four tail vertebrae has a hollow on the rear and a dome on the front, so each can slot into the next working towards the creatures head. This "ball and socket" design is said to afford great strength to the tail which may have been used as a prop when rearing up to feed from treetops.

Known only from a headless skeleton discovered in Mongolia, Opisthocoelicaudia shares some features with Borealosaurus, Sonidosaurus and Huabeisaurus but it could turn out to be a specimen of Nemegtosaurus which was discovered in the same formation in 1971 and is, funnily enough, known only from a skeleton-less head.
Etymology
Opisthocoelicaudia is derived from the Greek "opisthe" (back) and "koilos" (hollow) and the Latin "cauda" (tail) because of the opisthocoelous or opisthocoelian (both mean "hollowed at the rear") structure of its tail vertebrae.
I was hoping the species epithet, skarzynskii, was named to honor Polish aviator Stanisław Jakub Skarżyński - famous for his transatlantic solo flight in 1933 but, alas, it was named after Mr. Wojciech Skarżyński who prepared the specimen.
Discovery
Discovered at the Nemegt Formation by a joint Polish-Mongolian Expedition to the Gobi Desert, the Opisthocoelicaudia holotype (ZPAL MgD-I/48 - housed at the Institute of Geology in the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbataar) is a partial skeleton, possibly tyrannosaur- scavenged judging by teethmarks on its pelvis and femur. It was in decent condition but lacking a skull and neck.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Cretaceous
Stage: Maastrichtian
Age range: 71-68 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 12 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 14 tons
Diet: Herbivore
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Saurischia
Sauropodomorpha
Sauropoda
Macronaria
Titanosauria
Opisthocoelicaudia
skarzynskii
References
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "OPISTHOCOELICAUDIA :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 19th Jan 2018.
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