Rhoetosaurus brownei steps out to shed light on foot posture in sauropod dinosaurs

11 April 2019

Sauropod dinosaurs include the largest animals to ever walk the earth. New research now indicates that some sauropods walked on ‘high-heels’.

UQ PhD candidate Andréas Jannel and colleagues from UQ’s Dinosaur Lab analysed fossils of Australia’s only named Jurassic sauropod, Rhoetosaurus brownei, to better understand how such an enormous creature could support its own body weight.

The research suggests that even though Rhoetosaurus stood on its tiptoes, the heel was cushioned by fleshy pad.

“We see a similar thing in elephant feet, but this dinosaur was at least five times as heavy as an elephant, so the forces involved are much greater,” Andréas said.

"We found that the foot exhibited greater flexibility than previously thought. The hindfoot of Rhoetosaurus brownei was determined to be ‘skeletally digitigrade’, implying the animal walked with its toes in a ‘high-heeled’ fashion. However, the posture was almost certainly ‘functionally plantigrade’, meaning the animal actually impressed the full bottom surface of its foot on the ground, by virtue of an inferred cushioning pad."

Mr Jannel is now using computer techniques to simulate how different foot postures and the presence of a soft tissue pad affect stress distributions within the bones.

Click here to read the full UQ media release

Media contact: Andréas Jannel, a.jannel@uq.edu.au  +61 (0) 452 113 904

Jannel, A., Nair, J.P., Panagiotopoulou, O., Romilio, A. and Salisbury, S.W. 2019. "Keep your feet on the ground": simulated range of motion and hind foot posture of the Middle Jurassic sauropod Rhoetosaurus brownei and its implications for sauropod biology. Journal of Morphology. 2019. 1–30 PDF