|Name Meaning||“Super Lizard”||Height||15.2 – 18.2 meters (50 – 60 feet)|
|Pronunciation||soo-per-SAW-rus||Length||33 – 39 meters (108 – 128 feet)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Late Jurassic||Weight||50 tons (100,000 lbs)|
|Classification||Dinosauria, Saurischia & Sauropoda||Location||USA (North America)|
Supersaurus is a genus of sauropod dinosaurs that lived during the Late Jurassic period.
Fossils of this dinosaur were first discovered in Colorado back in 1972.
The dinosaur is believed to have lived between 153 to 145 million years ago.
An enormous dinosaur by all accounts, the aptly named Supersaurus is a worthy candidate for the longest dinosaur to have ever lived.
Although there’s still ongoing debate about its true size, this dinosaur was characterized by an extremely long neck and tail, a bulky body, and a comparatively small head.
The name Supersaurus, which translates as “superior lizard,” is a reference to the dinosaur’s extreme size.
Despite the incredible size, this dinosaur is not very well-known in the paleontology community, probably due to the scarcity of fossil remains for this dinosaur.
Supersaurus is among a long list of long-necked dinosaurs known as sauropods whose size, history, and behavior have fascinated both scientists and the general public for a long time.
This post details some of the most interesting facts about this super-sized dinosaur.
True to its name, the super lizard is popular for its gigantic size.
The best-preserved remains of this dinosaur have an estimated length of 108 to 115 feet (33 to 35 meters).
However, a recent review published in 2021 suggests an even longer length for this dinosaur.
Recent estimates put the length of the Supersaurus at over 128 feet (39 meters).
Going by this estimate, this dinosaur was arguably the longest terrestrial animal to have ever lived.
It would have been longer than the blue whale, which is the largest animal on record.
Interestingly, the unusual length of this dinosaur did not translate to extreme bulk.
Scientists estimate the Supersaurus’ weight to be about 40 to 50 tons which is on the low side when it is compared to the mass of similarly sized herbivorous dinosaurs like the Bruhathkayosaurus.
In terms of its overall anatomy, this heavy-weight dinosaur is often compared to Apatosaurus, another herbivorous dinosaur that lived in North America during the Late Jurassic period.
While both dinosaurs were similar in appearance, the Supersaurus had a less-bulky build and more elongated cervical vertebrae, resulting in a much longer neck.
Like the Apatosaurus, Supersaurus had a long and slender body characterized by a relatively small head in proportion to its overall size.
The dinosaur’s neck alone is estimated to have been around 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters) long.
The long neck made it possible for this dinosaur to reach vegetation at great heights.
Like many other sauropod dinosaurs, the Supersaurus’ body was supported by strong, pillar-like legs, ending in large, clawed feet.
It also had a long, whip-like tail which helped with balance.
Fossils of the Supersaurus discovered so far did not preserve any soft tissues.
This has made it difficult to determine the exact nature of this dinosaur’s skin.
However, we may infer that it had rough and textured skin, which provided some protection against predators and environmental elements.
Habitat and Distribution
The super lizard lived during the Late Jurassic period, approximately 155 to 145 million years ago.
Fossil remains attributed to this dinosaur have been found primarily in North America, suggesting that their range was mainly on this continent.
Some of the notable sites of Supersaurus discoveries include Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.
This suggests that the dinosaur’s range during the Late Jurassic period was in Western North America.
However, a possible second species in this genus (S. lourinhanensis) has also been identified in Portugal.
Supersaurus was a terrestrial herbivore whose habitat would have included both lowland and upland regions.
Large plant-eating dinosaurs like this colossal herbivore often prefer areas with abundant vegetation and access to water sources such as rivers and lakes.
It is thought that Supersaurus may have inhabited open habitats like floodplains and coastal plains, where it could find ample food resources.
During the Late Jurassic, the North American continent was lush with diverse plant life. The global climate was warmer than it is today.
Herbivorous dinosaurs like the Supersaurus flourished alongside carnivorous dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs and various reptiles.
Behavior and Diet
Supersaurus was a quadrupedal dinosaur.
The towering size of this dinosaur meant it probably moved slowly on all four legs.
Its long neck would have allowed it to reach up high into trees, in between branches, to obtain food, and its small head favored this feeding habit as well.
However, it would have had difficulty moving its neck quickly.
Supersaurus was most likely a solitary dinosaur.
Scientists have found no evidence of this dinosaur living in herds or packs.
However, like other plant-eating dinosaurs, they may have congregated in areas with abundant food and water supply.
The super lizard fed primarily on vegetation such as conifers, cycads, ginkgos, and ferns.
Its teeth were suited for grinding tough fibrous plant material.
The dinosaur would have relied on its height to access food sources that were unavailable to other herbivores in the area.
This is necessary since Supersaurus may have had to consume large quantities of food to sustain its massive size.
Supersaurus, like other dinosaurs, reproduced sexually.
Although no confirmed Supersaurus fossil eggs have ever been found, evidence of nests belonging to other sauropods has been found across various locations.
We can assume that female supersauropods laid eggs in communal nests in a similar manner.
The dinosaurs relied on environmental factors like moisture and temperature to incubate the eggs.
Sauropods, like the Supersaurus, exhibited rapid growth rates during their early stages.
Its juveniles would have undergone a period of rapid growth characterized by increased bone deposition and elongation.
Massive sauropod dinosaurs exhibit a type of growth pattern known as allometric growth.
In animals that exhibit this growth pattern, certain body parts or structures would grow at a relatively different rate compared to the rest of their body.
In Supersaurus, this is evident in the growth of the neck, tails, and limbs, which were considerably longer than the rest of their body.
The alternative to this is the Isometric growth pattern in which all body parts grow at the same rate.
Juvenile Supersaurus dinosaurs had relatively short necks and tails.
However, as they grew older, these body parts elongated significantly, outpacing the rest of their body.
This accounts for the characteristic long neck and tails observed in adult supersauropods.
Some other groups of dinosaurs, such as theropods, do not exhibit allometric growth patterns.
Instead, they undergo isometric growth, meaning their body proportions remain relatively constant throughout as they grow.
In this group of dinosaurs, adults look very similar to juveniles.
Evolution and History
The evolutionary history of the Supersaurus and other sauropod dinosaurs in the family Diplodocidae can be traced back to the Late Jurassic, approximately 156 to 145 million years ago.
The long-necked dinosaur is related to other large-bodied sauropods such as Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Barosaurus, and Amphicoelias.
However, it shares a closer relationship and similarities with the dinosaurs in the Apatosaurus genus.
All dinosaurs in the Diplodocidae family are characterized by exaggerated anatomical features, including their long necks and tails.
One notable change in morphology within the Diplodocidae family as they evolved is the elongation of the neck and tail over time.
Older diplodocids, such as Diplodocus, had relatively shorter necks and tails compared to later forms like Supersaurus and Barosaurus.
This trend towards elongation likely allowed for increased feeding range and access to a wider variety of vegetation.
The elongated features of sauropods like the Supersaurus also gave them a more important ecological role than older varieties.
Dinosaurs like the Supersaurus were primarily consumers in their ecosystem as they had access to plants that other dinosaurs couldn’t reach.
Their massive size meant they would have consumed large amounts of vegetation.
This may have contributed to the structure and composition of the Late Jurassic terrestrial ecosystems that they were part of.
Interactions With Other Species
As a relatively defenseless herbivore, Supersaurus, and other large sauropods probably faced predation pressure from carnivorous dinosaurs like theropods.
Theropods were the apex predators of the late Jurassic period, and some of them, like the Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, were contemporaries with Supersaurus.
These predatory dinosaurs would have posed a threat to both juvenile and adult individuals (but more especially to juveniles).
The theropods were likely ambush predators capable of taking down even the largest sauropods through coordinated attacks.
They may have also targeted vulnerable individuals.
As super herbivores with high dietary requirements, Supersaurus was most likely in a competitive relationship with other herbivorous species in its ecosystem.
It lived alongside other sauropods like Apatosaurus and ornithischian dinosaurs like Camptosaurus.
This would have led to competition over food and water, especially in places where these resources were limited.
Since it was first discovered in 1972, Supersaurus has been a subject of interest to scientists due to its massive size and relationship with other fossil remains discovered in the same location.
When the first partial remains were discovered in Colorado, USA, some of the vertebrae and limb bones were initially attributed to the related genus Barosaurus.
However, subsequent research recognized the distinctiveness of Supersaurus, leading to its designation as a separate genus.
In 1986, a more complete specimen (later nicknamed “Jimbo”) was discovered in Converse County, Wyoming.
The discovery provided valuable insights into the appearance and true size of the Supersaurus and its relationship with other sauropod dinosaurs that lived during the Late Jurassic.
More recently, scientists have carried out a more detailed comparison of Jimbo and other fossils discovered earlier.
The latest findings suggest that the Supersaurus was probably the longest terrestrial animal to have ever walked the planet.
Future studies may further provide insights into the biology of sauropod gigantism and the physiological constraints that came with having such massive bodies.
In pop culture, Supersaurus and other massive sauropods have long captured the imagination of people and they have been depicted in various forms of popular media.
They are often depicted in books, documentaries, and films.
Their colossal size and distinct appearance make them iconic and awe-inspiring creatures to showcase the colossal sizes that dinosaurs reached during their time on the planet.
Supersaurus was a massive quadrupedal dinosaur that lived in North America approximately 153 to 145 million years ago.
It was known for its distinctive long neck and was arguably the longest terrestrial animal to have ever lived.
The massive dinosaur was characterized by an extremely long neck, a long muscular tail, and a small head.
This dinosaur was a herbivore capable of reaching plants at great heights, thanks to its extremely long neck.
It is related to other long-necked sauropod dinosaurs like the Barosaurus and Apatosaurus.
However, latest research suggests that this dinosaur was the longest member of the Sauropoda clade.
As the name suggests, Supersaurus represents the impressive size and grandeur of the dinosaurs that once dominated the Earth.
Its recognition as one of the largest land animals to have ever lived solidifies its place as an emblematic representative of what the prehistoric world might have looked like.
What does the name “Supersaurus” mean?
The name “Supersaurus” means “super lizard.” It is derived from the Latin words “super” (meaning “above” or “superior”) and “saurus” (meaning “lizard”).
How big was the Supersaurus?
Supersaurus was one of the largest dinosaurs known to have existed.
It is estimated to have reached lengths of up to 105 to 138 feet and weighed around 50 to 60 tons.
Its immense size made it one of the longest land animals in history.
Where did the Supersaurus live?
Supersaurus fossils have been found primarily in North America, specifically in locations such as Colorado, & Wyoming.
It likely inhabited parts of Western North America during the Late Jurassic period.
What did the Supersaurus eat?
Supersaurus was a herbivorous dinosaur, feeding primarily on vegetation such as conifers and cycads.
Its teeth were flat and suited for grinding plant material, indicating a diet of tough, fibrous vegetation.
It likely browsed on conifers, cycads, ferns, and other plant species abundant during the Late Jurassic.
Did Supersaurus have any predators?
While direct evidence of specific predators of Supersaurus is limited, it likely faced threats from large carnivorous dinosaurs that lived during the Late Jurassic.
Predators such as Allosaurus, Torvosaurus, and Ceratosaurus were present in the same ecosystems and could have posed a threat to Supersaurus and other herbivores.
Jerry Young is a self-proclaimed prehistoric animal nerd. He has been fascinated with these ancient creatures for as long as he can remember, and his passion for them continues to this day. With his extensive knowledge and love for prehistoric animals, he is the perfect fit for Gage Beasley Prehistoric.