Field of Science

Aging, Maturation and Growth of Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs

Griebeler, E. M., Klein, N., and  P. M. Sander. 2013. Aging, Maturation and Growth of Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs as Deduced from Growth Curves Using Long Bone Histological Data: An Assessment of Methodological Constraints and Solutions. PLoS ONE 8(6): e67012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067012

Abstract -
Information on aging, maturation, and growth is important for understanding life histories of organisms. In extinct dinosaurs, such information can be derived from the histological growth record preserved in the mid-shaft cortex of long bones. Here, we construct growth models to estimate ages at death, ages at sexual maturity, ages at which individuals were fully-grown, and maximum growth rates from the growth record preserved in long bones of six sauropod dinosaur individuals (one indeterminate mamenchisaurid, two Apatosaurus sp., two indeterminate diplodocids, and one Camarasaurus sp.) and one basal sauropodomorph dinosaur individual (Plateosaurus engelhardti). Using these estimates, we establish allometries between body mass and each of these traits and compare these to extant taxa. Growth models considered for each dinosaur individual were the von Bertalanffy model, the Gompertz model, and the logistic model (LGM), all of which have inherently fixed inflection points, and the Chapman-Richards model in which the point is not fixed. We use the arithmetic mean of the age at the inflection point and of the age at which 90% of asymptotic mass is reached to assess respectively the age at sexual maturity or the age at onset of reproduction, because unambiguous indicators of maturity in Sauropodomorpha are lacking. According to an AIC-based model selection process, the LGM was the best model for our sauropodomorph sample. Allometries established are consistent with literature data on other Sauropodomorpha. All Sauropodomorpha reached full size within a time span similar to scaled-up modern mammalian megaherbivores and had similar maximum growth rates to scaled-up modern megaherbivores and ratites, but growth rates of Sauropodomorpha were lower than of an average mammal. Sauropodomorph ages at death probably were lower than that of average scaled-up ratites and megaherbivores. Sauropodomorpha were older at maturation than scaled-up ratites and average mammals, but younger than scaled-up megaherbivores.

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