Diplodocus, which means “Double Beam,” was first discovered in 1877 by Earl Douglass and Samuel W. Williston, and it was named by Othniel C. Marsh, the paleontologist who discovered Apatosaurus and created the Brontosaurus mix-up, in 1878. For more information about Marsh and Brontosaurus, see my article, Brontosaurus Does Not Exist.
Diplodocus lived in the western U.S., mainly in what is today the Rocky Mountains. This dinosaur lived in the late Jurassic Period, around 145-155 million years ago, during the time other giant sauropods (‘lizard-footed”) such as Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus lived. Other dinosaurs that lived around the same time include Stegosaurus and Allosaurus.
Here are five interesting facts about Diplodocus.
Diplodocus Fact #1: Diplodocus was about 90 feet long and had a 26-foot long neck and 45-foot long tail, but it had a small head that was less than two feet in length. Like Apatosaurus, Diplodocus had nostrils at the top of its head and peg-like teeth. Diplodocus also had a row of spines running down its back and its back legs were longer than its front legs. Each foot had five toes. Diplodocus moved slowly on all four legs, however, it was lighter than other giant sauropods and weighed only 10 to 20 tons. Diplodocus’s backbone had extra bones that were anvil shaped, which gave it a “double beam.”
Diplodocus Fact #2: Diplodocus was an herbivore. Because of its size, it had to eat large amounts of food. Diplodocus swallowed plants whole as well as gastroliths to aid in digestion. The blunt teeth was used to strip foliage.
Diplodocus Fact #3: Diplodocus, like Apatosaurus, could not hold its neck above 17 feet., and it held its neck parallel to the ground. Also like Apatosaurus, Diplodocus may have used its neck to reach plants in areas its body would not fit. It may have also used its neck to eat pteridophytes, which are horsetails, club mosses, and ferns. Since these plants lived in wet areas Diplodocus could not stand in, it may have stood on dry land and reached the soft plants with its neck.
Diplodocus Fact #4: Diplodocus had thin ribs that were attached to the skin by its belly instead of being attached to the backbone. These ribs are called gastralia, also known as hanging belly ribs, and they protected internal organs.
Diplodocus Fact #5: Diplodocus might have traveled in herds and migrated when it needed more food. Like other sauropods, its eggs have been found in a linear pattern instead of nests, so it probably laid eggs while it was walking. Diplodocus also probably did not take care of its eggs, and like other sauropods, it lived an average of 100 years.