Nigersaurus is a genus of Diplodocus-like sauropod dinosaur. It lived in the middle of the Cretaceous period in what is now the Republic of Niger. Fossils of this dinosaur were first described in 1976, but it was only named in 1999 after more complete remains were found and described.
It Took Scientists Decades to Realize Just How Odd This Critter Was.
Nigersaurus received its scientific name in 1976, but paleontologists wouldn’t get a decent idea of what the animal looked like until the late 2000s. Why? This dino’s skeleton was, in many places, hollow, making it vulnerable to shattering and distortion. Before 1997, though specimens were common, no decent ones had turned up—so for years, few suspected that Nigersaurus was anything other than some run-of-the-mill, Plain Jane sauropod.
Nigersaurus Has been Called a “Mesozoic Cow.”
Lawn-mower impersonations seem to have been its forte: Nigersaurus’ wide muzzle and shredding teeth were clearly designed for nomming on ground-level vegetation (for the record, grass-guzzling wouldn’t have been an option, as the earliest grasses hadn’t yet begun evolving in its day).
Nigersaurus’ Spine Was Partially Filled with Air.
Its neck vertebrae are little more than delicate skeletal shells. Like many other dinos (and all modern-day birds), many of Nigersaurus’ bones were hollow and likely indicate the presence of a complicated, avian-style respiratory system.
Nigersaurus was a “Short-Necked” Long-Necked Dinosaur.
Try repeating that sentence five times fast! Sauropods are usually associated with extensive necks; some well-endowed species even placed over 35 feet between their heads and shoulders. But Nigersaurus and its closest relatives (which together formed a sub-group called the “Rebbachisauridae”) had little to brag about in this department.
We’ve Found Pieces of Tiny Nigersaurus Babies.
Though adults were roughly 30 feet long, the itsy-bitsy fossilized jawbone of a hatchling Nigersaurus was so small that, according to paleontologist Paul Sereno, it could “fit on top of a silver dollar.” Aww!
Nigersaurus was Fairly Light-Headed
Its noggin featured some abnormally-thin cranial bones; in fact, many are almost translucent.
Nigersaurus’ Sense of Smell Left a Lot to be Desired.
Nigersaurus probably didn’t spend much time following its nose. An examination of its brain cavity reveals that, despite having elongated nostrils, this herbivore’s olfactory lobes (which help the brain perceive scent) were noticeably small.