BBC Earth

Diplodocus

'Double beam'

WWD

A massive plant-eating dinosaur straight out of the movies. It was built like a suspension bridge, with an impressively long whip-like tail and neck.

They call it home

Diplodocus can be found in North America’s Morrison Formation, an area that includes Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. In this Jurassic treasure trove, its fossils have been found along with those of Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus.

What big teeth you have

What big teeth you have

Diplodocus had about 40 teeth, all of which were pointing slightly forward, giving the dinosaur a very goofy expression.

Nose knowledge

Nose knowledge

We used to think that the nostrils of Diplodocus were on top of its head and would have been used as a snorkel for swimming. Recently it was discovered that the nostrils were located on either side of the mouth to keep its brain cool and sense its environment.

The poop scoop

The poop scoop

Diplodocus’ poo may have been a tonne or two of liquid dropped from a great height. On the ground it may have formed a pool over 10m (33ft) across.

The most fantastic find

The most fantastic find The most complete Diplodocus fossil was found in North America at Sheep Creek, within the Morrison Formation. It was discovered in 1899 on a trip funded by Andrew Carnegie, one of the world’s wealthiest men at the time. By July 1899, Jacob Wortman (curator of vertebrate palaeontology at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History), Arthur Coggeshall (preparator at the same museum) and Bill Reed (from the University of Wyoming) had uncovered fossils of Diplodocus. Andrew Carnegie had these fossils replicated and presented to King Edward VII at the British Museum. He then sent other copies to various museums in Europe and South America. Diplodocus was the most celebrated dinosaur of the early 20th century and even more importantly, many of Carnegie’s cast specimens offered millions of people their first chance to see a dinosaur.

Diplodocus features

Diplodocus features Height: 14m (45.92ft)
Length: 25m (82ft)
Weight: 12 tonnes (13.44 short tons)
Top speed: 24.1kph (14.98mph)
Vision: With eyes pointing out on either side of its head, Diplodocus had good side vision to keep a watch out for predators like Allosaurus.
Skin: Diplodocus skin had a pattern of tiny, pinhead-sized bumps.
Brain: For its size, Diplodocus had a tiny brain, weighing just 113g (4oz).
Prey: Diplodocus was so huge it would have had to consume several tonnes of food a day. The front limbs of Diplodocus were shorter than its hind limbs, allowing easy access to low-lying vegetation. Diplodocus had an extra long claw on its thumb, which was either used for fighting or raking branches or both.
Bite: The teeth of Diplodocus were not the right shape for chewing, so it would have swallowed several pounds of stone in an effort to crush undigested plants.
Nest: Sauropod eggs like Diplodocus were about the size of a grapefruit 10cm (4in) long, containing up to 5.5 litres (11 pints) of fluid. Some sauropod eggs were larger, about the size of a football.

Diplodocus facts and theories

Diplodocus facts and theories

  1. Diplodocus' extremely long tail, which was about half its total body length, acted as a counterbalance.
  2. Diplodocus may have been among the longest lived dinosaurs, reaching 50-80 years old. That compares to the large bipedal carnivores like T.rex who would have reached just 30 years.
  3. Diplodocus had slender, pencil-like teeth set at the front of its mouth for stripping vegetation.
  4. A single Diplodocus fart would have produced enough gas to fill a hot air balloon!
  5. The long tail of Diplodocus was probably its primary weapon against predators. Studies using advanced computer modelling programs have suggested that Diplodocus could whip its tail at supersonic speeds – almost 1,287kph (800mph). Imagine how the sound of a supersonic boom would have struck fear into the heart of an Allosaurus on the prowl.
  6. Some scientists have argued that Diplodocus could rear up on its hind feet, making it tall enough to reach the sixth floor of a modern tower block. Imagine the thud when it crashed back down to earth!