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I can find many sources for mass, but none saying how much any sauropod could carry or pull. Is there a formula for this stuff? Does anyone have a general idea? I want like a range that they could pull or carry as means of transportations. If they can pull or carry a lot, then militaries would invest in these "white elephants" as they could mass move artillery instead of hundreds of horses. We are ignoring training difficulties, that's a separate problem I've solved.

At Nolo's recommendation, I'm going to throw numbers up here. The current sauropods I'm thinking of using are Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus. Those are the main ones for now, but other sauropods might enter my story later. Brachiosaurus weighed from 28 to 47 tons, while Diplodocus weighted from 11 to 18 tons.

The first link has a long list of dinosaurs and weights if you don't like the ones I recommended.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3526529/

https://www.livescience.com/24326-diplodocus.html#:~:text=Estimating%20the%20mass%20of%20dinosaurs,10%20to%2016%20metric%20tons).

https://study.com/academy/lesson/brachiosaurus-facts-size-weight.html#:~:text=Brachiosaurus%20was%20around%2082%20feet,times%20higher%20than%20a%20giraffe.

I forgot about Shantungosaurus, which is a massive hadrosaur, which would be a good dinosaur to pull stuff around as well. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-the-biggest-dinosaur.html#:~:text=Shantungosaurus&text=Shantungosaurus%20was%20a%20hadrosaur%20and,reached%20over%201.6%20metres%20long.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, more massive animals would seem to get diminishing returns for how much they can carry proportionally to their own mass, but probably not so for how much they can pull. The reason being that carrying more weight has a larger cost to the structure of the animal where as pulling is simply like operating a lever and the math on that seems to scale just fine. $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Oct 25, 2023 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ I would approach this by looking at what dogs, horses, oxen, elephants can pull. Then just linear extrapolate for a plausible ball park. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2023 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ The confusion out in the world on these kinds of things is quite vexing, but I'll submit that I've heard reported in a number of places that a horse can actually pull an equivalent of about 15 horse power, whereas chatGPT reports that the average elephant can pull 3 horse power, which chatGPT has been critiqued for being poor at math. As someone who has taken physics courses and who is aware of the nature of this kind of confusion, I would recommend learning about unit conversion and trying the calculations yourself. On the one hand... $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Oct 25, 2023 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, you can easily find answers like this online, such as here quora.com/…, but then how do you know if the answer is correct? $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Oct 25, 2023 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ And again, that doesn't even touch on how the load is carried. If it's in a boat or on a barge, you have to worry about resistance which varies with speed if you want to determine travelling speeds. If it's over ice or on wheels that's fairly straight forward. So the question then becomes, what specifically are you trying to figure out? If you can provide numbers at least to within some estimate you can come up with, you'll be much more likely to get satisfactory answers. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Oct 25, 2023 at 4:01

2 Answers 2

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There is no good method the best we can manage is ballparking it.

This will depend a lot on the build of the animal, quadrupeds can carry more than bipeds and robust animals can carry more than gracile ones. But your main limit is how to attach it to the animal. that will matter a lot. Also as an animal gets bigger the amount it can lift proportionally goes down so we can't just scale up existing animals. mass increases by the cube but strength by the square. To use allometry weight is the wrong way to go about it, the best bet is to use limb bone diameter but that is a research paper so we will stick with weight.

But lets try some ballparking. We will take the lifting capacity of an elephants then scale it by 2/3 (to the 0.66 exponent) to account for allometric scaling.

6300kg elephants can carry 9000kg so round to 1.5 times mass

So for simplicity our formula will be: carry weight = 1.5bodymass^(0.66)

this way you can calculate it for anything you want.

I will use conservative estimates since sauropod mass estimates tend to range too high. But you used metric estimates so yea, no conversion.

Brachiosaur 35 tons, can carry 16 tons

Diplodocus 15 tons, can carry 9 tons

Now dinosaurs are generally built more sturdy than mammals, especially in the spine so if you want to increase this to 2bodymass^0.66 and lean a bit on the fantasy you can.

That gives you 12 tons for diplodocus and 21 tons for Brachiosaurus.

Drag is even harder Since is mostly relates to attaching it to the animal. Which is why oxen can drag way more than horses, they just have a more solid ways of attachment. It also matter what they are dragging. A horse can drag more than ten times the weight on wheels as they can without. you will first have to figure out what they are pulling. a horse can drag 1/10 of its mass or 1.5 times it mass on wheel. So to be safe go with 1.5 times their mass assuming you put it on wheels.

So assuming a really great harness and wheels... that would be 53 tons for brachiosaurus and 22 tons for Diplodocus.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you seen giraffes fight? They kick and they whip with their necks. I imagine these creatures did something similar, but bigger. I imagine only a few in a herd grew this big, and they took years to get there. If there is nothing else limiting their size, then they may grow so large that they can move themselves but with little to spare. The huge ones may be able to lean, and press with a fraction of their weight. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2023 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardKirk absolutely not, giraffe vertebrae is a solid stout bone, a sauropods neck vertebra is thin wafers of bone around an air sack. smacking one in to another would be a horror show, the tails on the other hand are built for smacking. also these are not big for sauropods, the largest got up to 60-70 tons. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:20
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Okay - I'm going to give this a crack.

So, some Baselines - Worlds Strongest man comps have regularly done an Aircraft pull - there's videos of it on YouTube - The one I've done the Maths for is pulling a C130 - empty at 44,000 lbs. Using the Fr = CW (Force of Resistance is equal to Rolling Coefficient times weight) 44,000 lbs is our mass, which is equal to 195,721 N in Weight, according to a paper our found - the rolling Coefficient of a C130 is 0.025 (which is the equivalent of a rubber wheeled vehicle on good tarmac) - putting that all together, the worlds strongest man comp is imparting about 500 Kg of force.

Impressive stuff.

Data on the maximum pull strength of a Elephant is a little harder to come by. One source says they can pull up to 18,000 lbs, which gives a weight of 8 Tonnes.

That's an interesting number.

For the worlds Strongest men comp - they are weighing in at ~160-190 Kg. And they are pulling about 2.5x their body weight.

Elephants range anywhere from 2-6 Tonnes - and the above source didn't specify the weight of the elephant or how they got that number - but let's for the sake of argument say it's a 3 Tonne Elephant - pulling about 2.5 times their body weight again.

If we assume that around 2.5 times is correct for the total pull force they are able to impart, then this gives us Fr in our above equation.

Pick the mid-point of your Dinos weight, multiply it by 2.5 - that's the Force they are pulling.

Say they are pulling a rail car on a rail track (rolling coefficient of 0.001) - they could potentially be pulling 90,000 Tonnes. (35 Tonne Dino, 2.5 pull strength, imparting a max pulling force of ~90 Tonnes, divided by 0.001).

Say it's pulling a wheeled vehicle on Soft sand (much higher rolling coefficient of 0.4) - then they are able to pull 220 tonnes.

Basically - anything from 90,000 tonnes to less than 87 tonnes is plausible, depending on what the medium they are pulling is.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that strongmen are a good choice of baseline - they are extreme outliers among human capabilities, after all - but a good crack at an answer none-the-less. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2023 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JackAidley In the context of the other great apes, using strongmen might be a pretty good baseline. Even the strongest human is weak compared to any other great ape. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2023 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ using a biped is a horrible way to estimate carry for a quadruped. Also strength scales negatively with size, its the main thing that limits animal size. you need allometry. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 25, 2023 at 21:04

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