David Button is a palaeontologist based at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Previously, he worked on vertebrate palaeobiogeograhy at the University of Birmingham, before which completed his PhD thesis on cranial biomechanics of sauropod and ‘prosauropod’ dinosaurs at the University of Bristol. He gained his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Leicester, were he studied the phylogeny of pterosaurs. His research utilises methods from a variety of disciplines, including soft-tissue reconstruction, biomechanics, biogeography and evolutionary modelling, to investigate macroevolutionary and ecological signals in the vertebrate fossil record. He is particularly interested in archosaur biology and the evolution of herbivory in vertebrates. Contact details:
Dr David Button, Brimley Postdoctoral Scholar, NC State University & NC Museum of Natural Sciences, USA.
by David Button1
The sauropods are some of the most iconic prehistoric vertebrates. Their unique body plan — long neck and tail, bulky body and proportionately tiny head — is perhaps the most famous image of ‘a dinosaur’ and the group includes household names such as Brontosaurus, Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus. Sauropod remains have been found on every continent, and they were one of the most important groups of terrestrial giant plant eaters, or megaherbivores, throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (201 million to 66 million years ago). The single most notable sauropod trait is their gigantic size: the largest sauropods would have measured more than 40 metres from nose to tail, reached 18 metres tall and tipped the scales in the region of 60–80 tonnes, making them t