A comparison of dinosaur skeletons with those of living mammals suggests that the ancient reptiles were tens of tons lighter than previously believed.
Dinosaurs have shed some extra pounds just in time for beach season, with a new analysis suggesting the mighty sauropod previously known as Brachiosaurus weighed tens of tons less than earlier estimates.
Artists' renderings of dinosaurs have long been plagued by discrepancies, with some depictions larger and heftier than others.
"The whole point is we were trying to get around the guesswork" of artistic reconstructions, study researcher Bill Sellers, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience. The researchers found that among the artists, "the ones reconstructing their dinosaurs as quite skinny are more right."
To come up with their skinny dinosaur suggestion, the researchers analyzed the skeletons of living species and compared the skeletal sizes with those animals' actual weight. Using 3D images made by laser scans of full sets of bones from 14 large mammals, including a polar bear, giraffe and elephant, the researchers calculated the "minimum wrapping volume" needed to cover a skeleton with flesh.
"All we can do when we are looking at these long-dead fossil animals is rely on what we can find out from living animals," Sellers explained. They chose these large mammals instead of the dinosaur's closest relative, the crocodile, as comparison points because they are land-adapted. (Crocodiles are adapted to living in the water, where body mass is less of an obstacle.)