All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
4 03, 2015

How to Weigh a Stegosaurus

By | March 4th, 2015|General Teaching|Comments Off on How to Weigh a Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus Weighs 1.6 Tonnes

Scientists at the Natural History Museum (London), have embarked on a research project to learn more about one of the most iconic of the dinosaurs – Stegosaurus.  Back in November 2014, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the building of a new exhibit at the museum, one that features the most complete fossilised skeleton of a Stegosaurus stenops found to date.  The fossilised remains are more than 80% complete and the skull is exquisitely preserved.  This specimen is going to be the focus of an on-going research project into these armoured dinosaurs, the first of its kind for eighty years.

“Sophie” the Stegosaurus Weighs 1.6 Tonnes

A remarkable fossil specimen.

A remarkable fossil specimen.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

Prior to the fossils being mounted in their exhibit pose, every single bone was scanned and digitally recorded.  Using this information, it was possible to calculate the weight of this Late Jurassic herbivore.  The research team have concluded that the Stegosaurus nick-named “Sophie” weighed in at 1.6 metric Tonnes.  That’s heavier than a Ford Focus car,  a Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) and about as heavy as twenty adult men.  Palaeontologists require information about body mass as it is a key component in calculations related to locomotion and metabolism.

Commenting on the significance of this research, published in the academic journal “Biology Letters”, lead author Dr. Charlotte Brassey stated:

“If we want to estimate how fast an animal runs, you need body mass; if you want to say something about their metabolism, you need to know their body mass.  So, yes, we’re really glad that we’ve been able to get hold of this very early on, and now what I’m looking to do is begin to strap muscles on to our computer models so that we can get her walking to say something about locomotion.”

4 03, 2015

“Sophie” The Stegosaurus at 1.6 Tonnes

By | March 4th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|1 Comment

Scientists Calculate the Body Mass of a Stegosaurus

A team of scientists based at the Natural History Museum (London), have calculated the weight of “Sophie”, the beautifully preserved and nearly complete Stegosaurus fossil skeleton that has been on display at the museum since last November.  This is the first set of data to be released about this, most iconic dinosaur, famous for its tiny brain and those remarkable plates running along its back.  The research team headed by Dr. Paul Barrett hope to release more findings throughout the year.  The weight of the 5.6 metre long animal, has been calculated at 1.6 Tonnes, not a bad size for a dinosaur that was not yet fully grown when she died.

“Sophie” The Stegosaurus Weighs 1,600 Kilogrammes

The preserved skeleton of "Sophie" the Stegosaurus.

The preserved skeleton of “Sophie” the Stegosaurus.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

Team members at Everything Dinosaur predicted at the beginning of the year that much more information would be known about Stegosaurs over the course of 2015 thanks to the palaeontologists and other scientists based at the museum.  It was one of the company’s “palaeontology predictions” for this year.  Ironically, despite this dinosaur’s popularity (it came in at number four in Everything Dinosaur’s most popular prehistoric animals survey), very little academic work has been carried out on Stegosaurus for more than eighty years.

Palaeontologists like Dr. Charlotte Brassey, the lead author of a paper about “Sophie” and her body weight are changing all that, the doctor and her colleagues will be embarking on a series of research projects aimed at helping us to learn more about this Late Jurassic herbivore.  The first research paper has just been published in the journal “Biology Letters”.  Knowing the body mass of an animal is very important as it allows researchers to answer a lot more questions once this data has been established.

Dr. Brassey explained:

“If we want to estimate how fast an animal runs, you need body mass; if you want to say something about their metabolism, you need to know their body mass.  So, yes, we’re really glad that we’ve been able to get hold of this very early on, and now what I’m looking to do is begin to strap muscles on to our computer models so that we can get her walking to say something about locomotion.”

The specimen, originally from Wyoming, consists of over 360 individual bones, about 80% of this material is actually fossil, the rest of the skeleton has been built up using casts of other specimens and reconstructions of missing pieces.  Prior to the skeleton being put on display, each one of these objects was scanned and mapped onto a computer programme using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) package.  It was from this modelling data that an estimated body mass of 1.6 Tonnes was calculated.  Although not fully grown, “Sophie” still weighed more than the fifteen players in England’s rugby team combined.

More traditional methods of calculating body weight involve measuring the circumference of the femur (thigh bone) and the humerus (upper arm bone).  The ratios between these two bones and body weight in extant animals is well established, the bigger the circumference the heavier the animal is the simple rule.  The new CAD modelling technique agrees with the figure for body mass calculated using the measurements from the major limb bones.  The scientists are confident that their data is correct and “Sophie” weighed in at around 1.6 Tonnes.  This suggests that a fully grown Stegosaurus stenops probably weighed more than three thousand kilogrammes.

A Fully Grown Stegosaurus Probably Weighed More Than Three Tonnes

A remarkable dinosaur.

A remarkable dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We look forward to learning more about Stegosaurs, one question that does need answering for example, is this, should we refer to this Stegosaurus as “Sophie”?  Will the scientists be able to confirm that this individual was a female?

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