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The ankle bones of sauropods were not fused or ossified, providing flexion while the animals walked. indd 44 5/28/08 3:43:28 PM The Sauropods: Herbivorous Giants 45 Elongation of the neck. The gradual elongation of the neck marked one of the hallmarks of sauropod evolution. With longer necks, these giants increased the reach of their heads to the sides in some species and to greater heights in others, presumably to improve the efficiency of gathering food. Skulls, nostrils, and teeth. The ­ so-­called “business end” of the sauropod was the head, where it took in vegetation to nourish its enormous body.

Sauropod Feeding Bakker made a convincing case for a terrestrial lifestyle of the sauropods. One aspect of his circumstantial evidence supporting sauropod life out of water was his assessment of where sauropod fossils have been found. Sauropod bones have been discovered all over the globe and often, as in the rich Morrison Formation fossil beds of Colorado and Wyoming, in deposits that were once part of vast floodplains, “not lakes and swamps,” as Bakker reminds us. A floodplain is an expanse of open land surrounding a river that experiences periodic and sudden seasonal flooding.

From the mouth, food was swallowed down the long esopha-­ gus and fed into a huge fermentation chamber in the gut that slowly extracted nutrients from ingested food. One paleontologist who has devoted much time to understanding the digestive process of sau-­ ropods is American James Farlow. indd 61 5/28/08 3:43:38 PM 62 time of the giants chamber beyond the stomach where gastric juices consisting of help-­ ful bacteria did the work of breaking down plant cells and releasing nutrients into the blood stream of the dinosaur.

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