'Basically dinosaurs grew like we do,' the Bonn palaeontologist Dr. Martin Sander explains: 'Each age corresponded to a particular body size.' There was not much leeway involved. Reptiles do things differently: when food is scarce they grow more slowly than when there is food galore. Thus, a tortoise can be 30, 40 or even 60 centimetres long at the same age. 'Warm-blooded animals, by contrast, cannot so easily turn down their metabolism,' the lecturer says: 'If the food supply is inadequate, there's only one thing they can do die.'
Dinosaurs lie somewhere in between: although they are descended from the reptiles, many of them had become warm-blooded, most researchers today agree. And they all grew like modern mammals: in accordance with a genetically programmed blueprint and in addition relatively fast. 'At least that's what was thought until recently,' Dr. Sander says. 'However, our findings have thrown this conception into disarray, at least for one dinosaur.'
The Swabian lindworm
The dinosaur involved is plateosaurus engelhardti, the most important 'German' dinosaur, to judge from the number of fossil finds. The 'Swabian lindworm' (the finds are mainly located in Swabia, in South-West Germany) lived about 200 million years ago and was the first really big dinosaur. It grew up to 10 metres long and weighed several tons. It belonged to the group of the prosauropods, from which the giant dinosaurs later evolved. Martin Sander and his assistant Nicole Kle
Contact: Dr. Martin Sander
University of Bonn