Period: Late Jurassic
Order, Suborder, Family: Saurischia, Sauropodomorpha, Euhelopodidae
Location: Asia (People's Republic of China)
Length: 72 feet (22 meters)
The slender and almost delicate proportions of this sauropod are an architectural wonder. It had extra vertebrae (bones in the spine) in its neck and its vertebrae were longer than usual; this gave Mamenchisaurus an almost impossibly long neck of about 33 feet. Add the shoulder height of about 11 feet, and Mamenchisaurus could reach around 44 feet off the ground. It would have been tall enough to peek into fourth story windows.
Dinosaurs have been associated with dragons for a long time. Mamenchisaurus was discovered at a collection site for "dragon bones" that were ground up and sold in drug stores. This site in China is called Mamenchi. "Chi" means brook, and "Mamen" was the name of the brook; so Mamenchisaurus means "reptile from the brook named Mamen."
Mamenchisaurus is the largest sauropod known from China and nearly half its length was its neck. The front limbs and skull were not found, but the rest of the skeleton was complete. This plant-eater weighed between 40 and 50 tons and was 72 feet long. The legs and tail of Mamenchisaurus were light and slender compared to other sauropods; it was probably agile and graceful when it walked. It may have wandered in herds like other sauropods, always feeding and protecting the young animals from meat-eating dinosaurs waiting to attack.
Many features of Mamenchisaurus resemble Diplodocus and other members of the family Diplodocidae. This shows a close relationship between the North American-European sauropod dinosaurs and the Chinese sauropods in the Late Jurassic. There was probably a land connection between Europe, North America, and China in the Late Jurassic that allowed the dinosaurs to migrate.
Replicas of the original skeleton have been shown in many museums around the world. Other dinosaurs from China have been excavated in recent years, and several projects have led to an exchange of information between museums in China, Canada, and the United States.