Exploring Giraffatitan Fossils

Giraffatitan SketchGiraffatitan was discovered in 1906 by Bernhard Wilhelm Sattler in Tanzania, which was under German colonization at the time. Over the next half dozen years, a large quantity of fossils, of Giraffatitan as well as other species, were uncovered in the same area as the initial discovery and were taken to Germany. The new species of sauropod was first incorrectly classified as a Brachiosaurus, and wasn’t suspected to be a new genus until the late 80s. In 1991, George Olshevsky classified the species as Giraffatitan. While most of the many specimens of Giraffatitan were destroyed in the Second World War, much is still known about this species from surviving fossils and extensive notes.



Giraffatitan Skull FossilGiraffatitan lived about 150 million years ago in the Late Jurassic Period. The climate was tropical and much of the land was covered in marshes, with inlands thick with plants. This is likely where Giraffatitan lived, where there was a greater abundance of food. The sparser coastal regions would have been a last resort location for such large animals in a drought. Some believed, though, that this enormous dinosaur would have spent most of their time submerged in the water, with just their head out, in order to move their weight easier. More recent studies have disproved this theory, however, by showing that the water pressure at a depth to allow the Giraffatitan to be completely submerged would have been too great for the animal to bear. Further, their feet were not adapted for movement underwater and so they would have been able to move around very efficiently once aquatic.


As the name suggests, this dinosaur was tall and had a long neck. “Giraffatitan” means “gigantic giraffe”. This sauropod was much large than a giraffe, however, with a length of about 70 feet on average. They probably weighed about 30 tons or 60,000 pounds. As with most sauropods, their brains were a small fraction of the size of their bodies. The small size of the brain cavity led early scientists to conclude that they must have had a second brain. Like giraffes, their diet most likely consisted of foliage grazed from the tops of trees, as well as ferns and mosses. It is possible that they lived in groups, to protect themselves from predators.

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