The energetics of low browsing in sauropods

Graeme D. Ruxton, David M. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


It has recently been argued that the probable high cost of travel for sauropod dinosaurs would have made exploiting high forage energetically attractive, if this reduced the need to travel between food patches. This argument was supported by simple calculations. Here, we take a similar approach to evaluate the energetics of foraging close to the ground. We predict that small extensions of the neck beyond the minimum required for the mouth to reach the ground bring substantial energetic savings. Each increment of length brings a further saving, but the sizes of such benefits decrease with increasing neck length. However, the observed neck length of around 9 m for Brachiosaurus (for example) is predicted to reduce the overall cost of foraging by 80 per cent, compared with a minimally necked individual. We argue that the long neck of the sauropods may have been under positive selection for low foraging (instead of, or as well as, exploitation of high foraging), if this long neck allowed a greater area of food to be exploited from a given position and thus reduced the energetically expensive movement of the whole animal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-781
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2011


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