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Name means: Lizard of La Amarga
Range: Early Cretaceous (Barremian-Aptian, 130-122 MYA) of Neuquen province, Argentina
Size estimate: 30 ft length, 4-5 tons
Discovery: Leonardo Salgado and José F. Bonaparte, 1991
Classification: dinosauria, saurischia, sauropoda, diplodocoidea, dicraeosauridae
Scientists have found only one Amargasaurus skeleton. They recovered enough of its bones to give us a good picture of this animal’s appearance and habits. The skeleton includes parts from the back of the skull to the base of the tail, and some of the bones were found still connected.
Amargasaurus belonged to a strange group of sauropods called “Dicraeosaurs.” Unlike most other sauropods, they had relatively short necks with strange shapes. The neck spines of Amargasaurus represent an extreme example of those shapes. This sculpture portrays an early guess at the spines’ purpose. More recent studies suggest that instead of supporting fins, the spines had a covering of horn. When the animal bent its neck downward, they would have stuck out like a pincushion. They probably lacked the strength to fend off large predators, but they might have scared them away.
The ears of Amargasaurus show that it held its neck high most of the time. This means it might have browsed from small trees. Its legs didn’t grow as long as other sauropods, but scientists disagree on why. Some think its short legs and wide body means it couldn’t move quickly or rear on its hind legs. Others say its stocky limbs show it could gallop.
Amargasaurus shared its environment with other sauropods—Zapalasaurus and Amargatitanis—the stegosaur Amargastegos, and the ceratosaur Ligabueino. Fragmentary fossils also suggest that a large carnivore and other large sauropods await future discovery in the La Amarga area.