A small(ish) giant

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One of the stars of the show in the 'Age of the Dinosaur' exhibition is the Camarasaurus. Curator and dino-expert Geoff Tresise tells us more about this herbivorous dino...

animatronic Camarasaurus

One of the stars of the show, the Camarasaurus

The largest of all dinosaurs were the sauropods, giant plant-eating herbivores.  The commonest North American sauropod was Camarasaurus and this is the form seen in the Age of the Dinosaur exhibition. Camarasaurus lived during the late Jurassic period 150 million years ago.  Fossils of adult and juvenile animals are found from the same localities, suggesting that, like elephants today, these dinosaurs lived and travelled in protective family groups. When sauropod fossils were first found in the 1870s, there was considerable confusion between the bones of three forms: Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus (then known as Brontosaurus) and Diplodocus.  Only when more complete skeletons were found did it become clear that Apatosaurus was the largest and bulkiest, Diplodocus had an exceptionally long neck and tail while Camarasaurus was the smallest of the three. Even so, it could reach 20 metres in length and weigh an estimated 20 metric tons.  (By comparison, a large African elephant weighs less than 5 tons.)  It was only by Sauropod standards that Camarasaurus can be considered small!