I am working through some revamps to the earlier skeletals I have on here. Obviously Giraffatitan
got a HUGE revamp with multi-views. The revised Andesaurus
also got redone yet again a while back.
I just redid the Brachiosaurus
skeletal too, fixed the skull - again.
Also on the workbench are Argentinosaurus
, and of course Futalongkosaurus
(actually quite far along on that one). Elaltitan
will get its own skeletal, with more accurate proportions, and get bumped off the Argyrosaurus
page - eventually.
Now revising old skeletals is all fun and good, but you might wonder, why not get it right the first time? Simple answer: lack of good photos/published diagrams to work from. As more images from better angles become available, we discover errors in old skeletals. With Giraffatitan
, I didn't have access to the full Janensch papers for years after I did the first version. With Argentinosaurus
, there are still very few good photos available of most of the bones with decent lighting and angles, and the description papers left out a lot of visual data. And of course with Futalognkosaurus
there is still no final word on the actual measurements, proportions, or any literature on the two juvenile specimens and other referred material such as an allegedly complete tail for the holotype and an egg which may also be from Futalognkosaurus
- there are only a couple informal photos and scant textual mention of these remains. Sadly, many titanosaur species are better viewed from amateur tourist photos on Pinterest or Instagram, than from anything published by actual scientists in the literature. Very few of them
are visual thinkers, and fewer still bother to take photos of the stuff they work on (despite having smartphones and facebook). In this regard, the SV-POW guys seem to be the rare exception to the visual apathy of much of the field.
The reason so much stuff needs revision is that we can't be everywhere at once, and the people who are in the museums, rarely take or publish any good multi-view images of the fossils. You work with what you have (often times little more than amateur snapshots from bad angles), and when the guesswork to fill the gaps turns out to be wrong, you revise it. Or, you can just stick to doing skeletals of super-boring species that have been done to death with hundreds of hi-fi photos or diagrams from nose to tail, like Kaatedocus
Anything that's actually interesting and not just another vanilla Diplodocus
cousin, seems to always be horribly photographed, horribly mismeasured, or horribly restored (with plaster or otherwise), and stays that way for years or decades. Aside from things which are apparently still undergoing research, such as the French Monster and the Chubut Monster, earlier crucial finds are either locked behind paywalls, ignored/abandoned by science, or both.
- no multiview photos of the femurs, fibula, or hip material. * "Antarctosaurus" giganteus
- no multiview pics of anything in any paper.
- no published photos of anything, and no casts of it besides the humerus. Did I mention the description was literally just one page long?!
- 3 papers and still
not a single consistent set of measurements or evaluation of referred specimens - and a terrible mishmash mount at the Royal Ontario Museum with Rapetosaurus
head, Big Bend 'Alamosaurus' neck and scaled-up North Horn Alamosaurus
caudals - contains almost NOTHING from Futa itself except a cast of the hips, despite consulting them on it they did not follow my advice.* Dreadnoughtus
- actually a decent paper, but very few published photos in multiview, and they are much lower resolution than the informal and press photos you can find on the internet (all from horrible angles) -at least they included a very nice 3d model though, which nobody else ever did with a titanosaur.
- for once some good hi-fi photos, just scarce material.
- decent drawings of the dorsal and photos of the cervical - but no images at all on the two caudals mentioned in the description - that's fully 50% of the holotype that may as well not exist!
* The Monster of Museo de La Plata - back in 1988 Greg Paul mentioned a huge though incomplete femur at the MLP which seemingly outclassed any dinosaur femur known at the time (this was before Argentinosaurus
, but apparently bigger than "Antarctosaurus" giganteus
). No catalog number was mentioned, and no photos or description were ever published.
- basically you can count all the photos of the type specimen on your fingers. I know there isn't a lot of material, but there's literally only one or two grainy black-and-white pics per bone, and several of the bones mentioned in the paper have no photos at all. And before seeing any of it you have to pay $38 to multinational publishing cartel Wiley. For 4 pages and 7 awful photos.
- first, there are photos of a full skeleton mount in a museum in Tokyo. Then Greg Paul does a full skeletal and a mass estimate in total confidence and boldly claims this is the biggest dinosaur ever. And then... he claims the specimen only consists of a couple of neck bones, and only puts a silhouette in his 2nd edition of the Princeton Field Guide. Presto! The giant dinosaur has disappeared from scientific reality faster than a rabbit in a top hat. I don't doubt that it's real (the Tokyo mount honestly looks to be casted form something
that's undergone a bit of crushing and erosion) but it's little more than a hugely hyped replica with no percentages for the actual fossil's completeness, and no museum catalog number. There is still NO scientific paper on this animal, even now.
" - same story as above, only this one is smaller, likely a titanosaur, and didn't even get a blindly done Greg Paul skeletal.
- apparently a very large euhelopodid, restored and mounted in Liaoning Museum but never described or published. Still known from only a couple of grainy photos.
- there is apparently a lot of neck material from additional specimens but aside from a single vertebra, none of it has even been published or formally referred. The huge femur also has never been published. Good luck figuring out if there's any truth to the horribly short neck included in the museum mounts. It looks to be cast from something
, we just don't know what, and it's almost certainly from an animal much smaller than the holotype. Oh well... at least Chinese paleontologists actually designate holotypes (despite omitting to mention a ton of material from ostensibly the same individuals in the description paper), which is more than I can say for many western scientists in the recent past (heck even Lusotitan
is nothing but a pile of lectotypes, none of which takes precedence over the others).
- a few pics of the initial 6 bones described, but nothing other than crappy internet snapshots of all the other vertebrae, ribs, and possible sacral material that was never
mentioned in the paper! Oh wait, there is a display of the dorsals in some sharper online photos (amateur tourist pics of course) - with horrible plaster work, incorrect ordering of the bones, and possibly extra bones from a separate individual thrown in just for the heck of it. When 90% of what's been seen of this animal is only known from tourist pics or grainy press photos of the digsite, and totally IGNORED in the actual published literature, you have a problem.
- aside from the Big Bend specimen, which may not be Alamosaurus
after all, there are very few photos of any neck or dorsal material, including the remains that Lehman and Coulson's skeletals were based on. Only a handful of the juvenile vertebrae were illustrated in their paper 2001, which included no photos at all. There is a lot of material lying in museums that is usually assumed to be Alamosaurus
, most of which has never been photographed. The gigantic remains referred by Fowler and Sullivan only have a few photos from a couple angles, and the biggest specimen, the fibula from Mexico, is basically only known from a measurement. That's it.
- two super-grainy and distorted photos of the giant sacrum "ZR.2" still in the ground back in the 1950s, then it's never seen or heard about again. It was only included in a large survey of Algerian fossils by Albert-Felix de Lapparent, who mentioned in passing: "in spite of its size and fragility we were able to recover this element and transport it back to Paris" - but he never mentioned just where
in Paris. There was no subsequent research done on this enigmatic sacrum, and there isn't even a record of which museum it's in, or if it still exists at all.
* And of course Bruhathkayosaurus
- where do we even begin with this thing. Two overhyped, under-productive government paleontologists in India dig up what they claim to be the biggest dinosaur ever known, and for 30 years they leave it in the ground
, only take three extremely blurry black-and-white photos of the "bones", draw a baby-skill sketch of them that makes no anatomical sense, alternately claim it's a Godzilla-sized theropod, pachycephalosaur, and finally sauropod, and then a few years ago the thing just happens to conveniently "wash away in a monsoon flood" and nobody ever took a decent color photo of any of it
. In over 30 years. If it was legit, you'd think these guys would be either writing a book on it or at least taking a pile of polaroids if they didn't have digital cameras, and mailing them to researchers abroad, at least do SOMETHING in all those 30 years.
Meanwhile we are for some reason up to our eyeballs in hi-fi photos and open-source papers on just about every vanilla "this one looks so much like the last one" Morrison diplodocid you can think of (except the ones that are still a bit unique, like Seismosaurus
). But good luck finding anything verifiable on Ruyangosaurus
, or even the 30+ Brachiosaurus
specimens besides the holotype and the Potter Creek one, without paying out the nose for a 6-page paper with a handful of crappy and possibly mis-scaled photos. The species that really matter
for understanding the truly dark and murky parts of the Sauropod family tree, get horrible scientific coverage, if any at all. Meanwhile everything that looks like a Diplodocus
clone gets the Red Carpet Treatment in full HD megapixel resolution.
There is probably an axiom here... the more interesting, gigantic, and taxonomically significant the species (for our understanding of sauropod evolution), the worse the photographic record and published literature on it tends to be - and the less work tenured professors (in general) can be bothered to do on any of it.
Call it Sassani's Law.