Giant, long-necked sauropods preferred to live in warmer, more tropical regions on Earth, suggesting they may have had a different physiology from other dinosaurs, a new study has found.

Researchers found that species like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus seem to have escaped freezing temperatures. This could indicate they were more cold-blooded than modern reptiles.

The study looked at fossil records of three main dinosaur types: sauropods, theropods – which include velociraptors and Tyrannosaurus rex – and ornithischians such as the Triceratops.

This data, together with data on climate during the Mesozoic age, that lasted between 230 and 66 millions years ago, as well information on how continents have moved throughout the world, led researchers to the conclusion that sauropods tended to live in warmer, dryer habitats than the other dinosaurs. 

These habitats would have been similar to our savannahs today, and were open to semi-arid environments. 

Sauropods (such as the Brontosaurus shown) preferred to live in warmer regions on Earth, suggesting they may have had a different physiology from other dinosaurs, a study has found

Sauropods like the Brontosaurus are more comfortable living in warm regions of Earth than other dinosaurs. This suggests that they might have developed a unique physiology.


Sauropods are the most successful herbivorous dinosaur group. They dominated terrestrial ecosystems over 140 million years from the Late Triassic through the Late Cretaceous. 

Their necks were long and their tails were short. They also had small skulls.

They stretched to 130 feet (40 metres) and weighed up to 80 tonnes (80,000kg) — 14 times the weight of an African elephant.

They were widespread — their remains have been found on all the continents except Antarctica.  

They had nostrils high up on their skulls — rather than being located at the end of the snout like those of so many other terrestrial vertebrates. 

These nostril openings are shown in fossils as being so high up on the skull, that they were almost right next to the eyes. 

Sauropods, such as the Diplodocus, began diversifying in the Middle Jurassic around 180million years ago. 

Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology 

Experts from University College London (UCL), and University of Vigo led the study. I wanted to find out why fossils of sauropods can only be found in lower latitudes. However, fossils from other major dinosaur types are all over the place, including many that are located in the pole regions. 

“Our research has shown that certain parts of the globe have always been too cold to support sauropods,” said Dr Philip Mannion of UCL Earth Sciences.

They seem to have avoided freezing temperatures. 

‘Other dinosaur types, in contrast, could thrive in Earth’s polar regions, from innermost Antarctica to polar Alaska — which, due to the warmer climate, were ice-free, with lush vegetation.

‘This suggests sauropods had different thermal requirements from other dinosaurs, relying more on their external environment to heat their bodies — slightly closer to being ‘cold-blooded’, like modern-day reptiles. 

“Their large size suggests that their physiology might have been unusual.”

The fossil records showed no examples of sauropods above a latitude of 50 degrees north – an area encompassing most of Canada, Russia, northern Europe and the UK – or below 65 degrees south, making up Antarctica.

However, rich records exist for ornithischians and theropods living over 50 degrees North in later periods starting 145million years ago.

For the purpose of determining if the data was accurate, scientists used statistical methods to remove gaps from the fossil record and analyze where dinosaur species were most abundant in various periods of the Mesozoic Era. 

In the past, dinosaurs were thought to be cold-blooded and relied on their environment for heat. However, they are now believed to have been warmer-blooded than mammals. They generate some heat from their bodies.

The study authors suggested that sauropods were some of the most massive land animals to ever have lived. They may have had an in-between physiology closer to dinosaur types, making them more cold-blooded.

Alfio Chiarenza (previously of UCL) was the first author. He is currently based at University of Vigo in Spain.

This image shows the latitudinally more restricted distribution of sauropod dinosaurs (white) compared to other dinosaurs (in black)

This photo shows how sauropod dinosaurs have a more limited distribution (in white) than the other types of dinosaurs.

Species such as Diplodocus (shown) and Brontosaurus likely avoided freezing temperatures, researchers said, meaning they could have been more 'cold-blooded' like modern-day reptiles

Researchers believe that species like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus likely avoided freezing temperatures. This could mean they were more cold-blooded than modern reptiles.

“A combination of features might have allowed sauropods to shed heat faster than modern mammals.” 

“Their longer necks and tails would give them more surface area. They may also have had a respiration system that is more similar to birds.

Some species of ornithischians, theropods, and some other animals have feathers or downy fur that helps them maintain body heat.

This suggests that the sauropods may have created their own heat. However, this type of insulation has not been proven for sauropods.

He said that the strategies of sauropods to keep their eggs warm might have been different from those used by other dinosaurs. 

“Theropods may have warmed eggs by sitting down on them,” while the ornithischians appear to have used heat produced by decaying plant matter. 

“Sauropods” may, however, have laid their eggs in the ground, depending on the heat of the sun or the ground. 

Current Biology published the study.


Non-avian dinosaurs died out around 66 million years ago, and over half of the species in the globe were extinct.

The mass extinction of mammalian species opened the door to the rise and development of humankind.

The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.

It crashed into what was now the Gulf of Mexico.

It created a massive dust cloud and soot cloud, which triggered climate change. This resulted in the extinction of 75% all species.

According to researchers, the only way that soot could have caused such a catastrophe was through direct impacts on Mexico’s shallow-water rocks rich in hydrocarbons.

Experts believe that a tsunami ripped through the Gulf Coast within 10 hours of the explosion.

Around 66 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world's species were obliterated. The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (stock image)

Non-avian dinosaurs died out around 66 million years ago, and nearly half of the species on Earth were extinct. Chicxulub is frequently cited (stock image).

It caused earthquakes or landslides even in Argentina. 

When the asteroid collided with Earth, researchers discovered tiny pieces of rock or other debris.

These tiny particles are called spherules and covered the entire planet in a thick layer soot.

Experts say that the total collapse of the aquatic system was caused by the absence of light from the sun.

It is because almost all aqua food chains had to be free of phytoplankton.

The more than 180,000,000 years of evolution which brought us to the Cretaceous point were believed to have been destroyed within 20-30 years.