Saichania

Name: Saichania ‭(‬Beautiful one‭)‬.
Phonetic: Sie-chan-ee-ah.
Named By: Teresa Maryańska‭ ‬-‭ ‬1977.‭
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Dinosauria,‭ ‬Thyreophoroidea,‭ ‬Ornithischia,‭ ‬Ankylosauridae,‭ ‬Ankylosaurinae.
Species: S.‭ ‬chulsanensis‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: Up to‭ ‬6.6‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Mongolia,‭ ‬Nemegt Basin‭ ‬-‭ ‬Barun Goyot Formation.
Time period: Campanian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Skulls and post cranial remains.

       At over six meters long Saichania is one of the larger known ankylosaurids,‭ ‬although in terms of size it would probably be eclipsed by the larger Tarchia which is also known from the same formation,‭ ‬and was actually described at the same time as Saichania.‭ ‬The actual meaning of the name Saichania‭ (‬beautiful one‭) ‬is based upon the condition of the holotype fossils that were recovered in a high state of preservation.
       One feature of interest about Saichania is the hard palate in the mouth‭ (‬if you touch the tip of your tongue to the roof your mouth you feel that it is hard,‭ ‬this is your palate‭)‬.‭ ‬Hard palates are virtually unknown in dinosaurs as a group,‭ ‬but they have been documented in other ankylosaurid dinosaurs like Euoplocephalus,‭ ‬which suggest that as a group the ankylosaurids dinosaurs were quite well developed.‭ ‬This means that Saichania would be able to breathe while its mouth was full of plants‭; ‬as such Saichania could afford to spend more time processing food with up and down jaw movements to allow for much more efficient digestion.‭ ‬Also Mongolia during the Late Cretaceous was covered by vast areas of arid landscape,‭ ‬the plants of which would have been tougher and requiring more digestion than the soft vegetation of wetlands.
       While the hard palate would have helped in the above respect,‭ ‬it would have also made it easier for Saichania to breathe through the network of air passages that were present in the snout.‭ ‬Earlier nodosaurids‭ (‬thought to be the group the ankylosaurids are descended from‭) ‬like Nodosaurus had simple passages that ran straight from the nostrils to the windpipe,‭ ‬so it seems strange that the ankylosaurids should‭ ‬develop‭ ‬such a system,‭ ‬at least until you consider the environmental effects of where they lived.‭
       Asian ankylosaurids would have lived in environments that were almost always arid,‭ ‬and as such dry.‭ ‬Breathing in dry air can dry out the lungs,‭ ‬causing an increased amount of moisture to be lost through respiration,‭ ‬and prolonged exposure can even trigger respiratory ailments as well.‭ ‬But having breathed in air that passed through a network of passages first,‭ ‬the air becomes moistened in the snout,‭ ‬significantly reducing the amount of moisture lost.‭ ‬Additionally breathing through the nose itself also greatly reduces the amount of water lost as to what would happen if breathing was through the mouth,‭ ‬and is why survival experts will tell you to breathe through your nose and not your mouth if you are ever stuck in the desert.‭
       Altogether the features of Saichania have helped reveal how well adapted to dry environments that the ankylosaurids were.‭ ‬Also while North American ankylosaurids lived in a greater variety of environments,‭ ‬they still possessed these adaptations,‭ ‬perhaps to better cope with seasonal wet and dry periods.‭ ‬Evidence for this can actually be found associated with‭ ‬the‭ ‬nodosaurid Edmontonia,‭ ‬as nearby petrified tree trunks have growth rings that correspond with extended wet and dry periods.
       The top of the skull of Saichania is covered in bulbous growths,‭ ‬a feature it shares not only with Tarchia but the North American Nodocephalosaurus as well.‭ ‬This hints at a common ancestry between these three ankylosaurid genera.

Further reading
- Ankylosauridae (Dinosauria) from Mongolia - Palaeontologia Polonica 37:85-151 - Teresa Maryańska - 1977.
- A new method to calculate allometric length-mass relationships of dinosaurs. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 21(1): 51–60 - F. Seebacher - 2001.



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