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Submitted on
May 11, 2013
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Atlasaurus imelakei skeletal by Paleo-King Atlasaurus imelakei skeletal by Paleo-King
Atlasaurus imelakei

Etymology: "Atlas mountains lizard, the giant"

Time horizon: Middle Jurassic, Bathonian to Callovian epochs (~166 mya)

Length: 15.8m (52 ft.), perhaps more depending on maturity.

Probable mass: 20+ tons

*NOW UPDATED with more accurate femur and distal humerus data*

After several starts and stops, finally an accurate skeletal of Atlasaurus, the bizarre short-necked brachiosaur! This skeletal is piled beyond shoulder-high with data from the description paper as well as from photographs of the museum mount in Rabat, Morocco, which correct a lot of the errors found in GSP's and Michel Fontaine's awful interpretations.

Named for the Atlas mountains in its native Morocco, this odd early member of brachiosauridae is probably the strangest sauropod known from good remains besides Isisaurus - it broke all the rules of a group that was already smashing everyone else's conventions for body size and outrageous neck length. It was one of at least two early brachiosaur genera (the other being an unnamed Portuguese animal… ) which pioneered the "giraffe-platform" model of arms longer than hindlegs that later became the signature feature of the entire family. Earlier macronarians, as well as more primitive sauropod groups such as Mamenchisauridae, already had their shoulders elevated somewhat above the hips, but much of this was due to their long shoulder blades (though few museums mount them at the correct incline). It was these "Atlasaurine" brachiosaurs which first featured arms where the humerus actually did tower over the femur, and the steep slope of the back was not due to big shoulders alone.

However, these early experiments with very long arms were a singular specialization. The very long necks typical of later brachiosaurs still had yet to appear. Atlasaurus was a very short-necked animal as far as brachiosaurs went, and even compared with more "average" sauropod families, the neck still looks painfully undersized. It's one animal that seems to be permanently designed for high-browsing, no matter what you like to imagine the neck doing. The arms are not just long but unusually slender, indicating that the muscles on the arms were relatively light, and that stride length, not torque, was basically the core of this animal's speed. For a sauropod it could have been surprisingly fast, its long arms giving it a clear balance and distance advantage over short-armed diplodocoids. The foot claws, larger than in later brachiosaurs, provided traction as well as flank defense. The tibia and fibula are short as in other brachiosaurs; by comparison the femurs look very oversized. The hands are still rather primitive for a brachiosaur, with the thumb metacarpal being shorter than the others (and, oddly, fused to the index finger's metacarpal), probably supporting a large swiveling thumb claw, a primitive feature which was reduced and fixed in later brachiosaurs. The posterior cervicals and anterior dorsals appear to have forked or at least partially forked spines as in Klamelisaurus, indicating that bifid brachiosaurs did exist but that the trait was later lost -which may coincide the the adoption of a more fully vertical and s-curved neck posture.

It's not clear why Atlasaurus didn't have a longer neck - even relative to more primitive sauropods it seems to have taken a step backwards in that regard. But the rock layers were it was discovered give a clue: the describers notes that the geology of the sandstone indicated "a vast plain close to sea level traversed by powerful rivers", which indicates the possible presence of large boulders getting pushed around by floods. It's possible that Atlasaurus lived on rocky floodplains where big herbivores needed a lot of vertical clearance to get over the huge stones and move quickly over collapse-prone ravines, but where most remaining trees were not very tall and long arms were sufficient for browsing height without needing a very long neck. Apparently the unfortunate type specimen (a teenager, like most of the best brachiosaur specimens) failed to make it over one particular ravine, and was partially scavenged by a theropod (which left behind some teeth) before being buried. It is a remarkably complete skeleton, including pieces of the skull, which appears to have roughly resembled Europasaurus, another basal brachiosaur. The medially curved humeri, as well as the angular front-heavy hips, are distinctly brachiosaurid, and resemble almost nothing else so much as B. altithorax, indicating that its lineage stretched back well into the Middle Jurassic, and that the basic axial and appendicular morphology of brachiosaurs as a unique group existed long before they reached their final iconic proportions.

And of course since this is Atlasaurus we're talking about, the scale figure this time is not Eugen Sandow, but Charles Atlas.


M. Monbaron and P. Taquet. 1981. Découverte du squelette complet d'un grand Cétiosaure (Dinosaure Sauropode) dans le bassin jurassique moyen de Tilougguit (Haut-Atlas central, Maroc) [Discovery of a complete skeleton of a large cetiosaur (sauropod dinosaur) in the Middle Jurassic Tilougguit Basin (High Atlas, Morocco)]. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences à Paris, Série II 292:243-246

M. Monbaron, D. A. Russell, and P. Taquet. 1999. Atlasaurus imelakei n.g., n.sp., a brachiosaurid-like sauropod from the Middle Jurassic of Morocco. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences à Paris, Sciences de la Terre et des Planètes 329:519-526.
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EoFauna Featured By Owner May 28, 2013  Professional General Artist
Atlasaurus with Charles Atlas! LOL
Paleo-reptiles Featured By Owner May 17, 2013
In pay attention to your is a Persian word of "Ali" (علی) is very interesting!!!
Paleo-reptiles Featured By Owner May 17, 2013
lovely art!
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner May 16, 2013  Professional General Artist
Oh and I forgot to ask, what are some of Michel Fontaine's erroneous interpretations?
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 17, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Fontaine's errors? There are scores of them... Flat feet, hands with the digits all in a row edge-on like an orangutan instead of properly interlocking together in u-shape cross section, neck too short like in GSP, arms too thin even by GSP's starving standards, barely any muscle on the lower legs, rib positioning vertical (outdated like 1950s Werner Janensch skeletals) and head restored too much like a Turiasaurus or some other cetiosaur-grade basal sauropod. Fontaine's skull reconstruction [link] doesn't even point out which parts are real and which are speculation... in fact it's really all speculation, it doesn't look like he used the published photos from the description paper for reference at all. The face is a sad droopy affair that looks nothing like any known brachiosaur head. Atlasaurus' head should look like Europasaurus based on the known parts. Instead Fontaine appears to have spliced Alf with Gonzo from Jim Henson's muppets and thrown some Turiasaurus or Spinophorosaurus teeth in there. A little too basal and frankly too prosauropod-like for the Atlas giant.

Also his front, rear, top, and muscular views of Atlasaurus are just hastily morphed ripoffs of Greg Paul's Giraffatitan skeletal. [link] Fontaine barely makes an attempt to mask this fact - and yet he dares to put his own name on it. He didn't even put in any sacral holes in the top view, which is a direct ripoff of Greg Paul's errors in restoring Giraffatitan's sacrals! If there's any original value in his work, it's in the side view of the hips and tail, nothing more.
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Professional General Artist
Who is this guy and why does his work appear in catalogs if it's so ridiculously bad? I barely know anything about dinosaurs (I used to be obsessed as a child, but as I got older my obsessions changed and I never returned to dinosaurs), but this angers me. One of my current obsessions is type, and frankly I think there is too much ignorance in the graphic field regarding type. I can imagine how frustrated I would be to see a type designer without any skill get a lot of attention for some reason. Someone with an eye for detail like you is much more deserving of this attention. Ahh that's politics I guess.
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Fontaine's work appears in catalogs? None that I know of, please enlighten me... To my knowledge he's not all that famous.

I see what you mean about type. When it comes to dinosaur illustrations there are plenty of frauds and ripoffs out there, a good page to check them out is here: [link]

One that they forgot to include is Josef Moravec. [link] His website "dinosaur corporation" touts him as a great paleoartist, but his work is crap! Poses and even proportions are totally impossible, outdated, not to mention the landscapes look all dead and wilted, just ripoffs of Knight and Burian paintings.
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
Sorry, I was merely speculating. Since he seems to be getting undeserved attention I assumed his work was in academic circles. So why does he get so much attention? Well, a reference from you anyway.

Very sad that these artists are copying each other so often. They do seem to have the talent, so I guess they're just too ignorant about dinosaur anatomy to be secure about getting the proportions right in original positions? As for Josef Moravec's work, I must admit I have nostalgic feelings towards these kind of illustrations (accurate or not, I grew up with these kind of pictures) but it certainly doesn't look accurate at all. Is it really supposed to be though? I find the term "paleoartist" rather misleading anyway. You don't need a degree to consider yourself a paleoartist, do you?

By the way, all of this reminds me of Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and science communicator who wrote the director of Titanic to complain about the moon being on the wrong side of the sky in the movie, and parts of the sky being copied. Apparently the problem was digitally fixed during a re-release of the movie. Anyway, I'm just glad there are people in every field to protect the integrity of their field, and of science in general.
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Fontaine's work isn't in academic circles. He's only been published in a few popular french newspapers like Le Monde and Liberation. And I suppose they don't care much whose art you are ripping off. Outside of France, he's a virtual unknown. However I mentioned him because if you look up Atlasaurus online you do see his interpretations of it, and after GSP he's the second person to attempt a skeletal of it. Both GSP's version and Fontaine's are a joke though. And if Fontaine wanted to do a multiview, he should have done his own original work, not just tweaked GSP's Giraffatitan. He probably won't publish in academic circles because this kind of forgery can be spotted by paleontologists a thousand miles away.

Third time's the charm, I guess.

And with Moravec, the thing you have to remember is that the nostalgia stems from the work of Knight and Burian. And while they have little accuracy, the painting of Knight and Burian were at least original work, and the proportions were still less ridiculous than Moravec's. Moravec's paintings are in many cases complete ripoffs of Knight and Burian, down to the colors and even the poses. The guy has no sense of originality, may just be lacking in talent or imagination, and shows no respect for the intellectual property of others. I wouldn't mind so much if he did his own "Burian-style" paintings (apparently he considers "Czech paleoart" to be a unique time-frozen genre separate from all other paleoart and not subject to the march of new scientific discoveries - consider that Burian himself said he didn't pay much attention to measurements and scientific facts). But he should not be labeling himself a "master" of scientific illustration at the same time, or claim that his work has any scientific value today, and he'd have a bit more credibility as purely an artist if he used his own poses and scenes instead of copying from Burian. He's purely a commercial hack, copying Burian in the 21st century (with inferior technique) and selling the nostalgia to baby-boomers. He's a smart hack though, I'll give him that... copyrighting the catchy name "dinosaur corporation" so that nobody else can use it, and putting a trilobite seal on his work to make it look like he's approved by some museum or official paleontological academic organization.

Sad thing is, these ripoffs usually don't get exposed. I'm not in favor of suing the pants off everyone who uses a similar visual style or similar scientific theories like GSP is - but people who ripoff specific unique live scenes of other artists for profit without giving any credit to the masters should be sued, or at least exposed as frauds. That goes for people with far more skill than Moravec and Fontaine as well. Raul Martin and Fabio Pastori should definitely be exposed (as they already have been) but continue to expose them until they clean up their act.
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Professional General Artist
I wouldn't want to get involved in suing people, but I do think it's more than justified to expose these kind of fraudulent practices. Although blatantly copying copes doesn't speak of craftsmanship and originality in any case, I can appreciate it if people use each other's work as a point of reference, either to improve on the original, to bring something refreshing or better yet, to completely recycle the original (perhaps only borrowing a concept or a particular pose of a figure within a greater composition), but it seems more liberties can be taken as an artist than as a scientist. Not to confuse paleo-artists with scientists necessarily, but I think the paleo-artist does have the integrity of two very different fields to consider. Artistry on the one hand and anatomical/geographical/historical accuracy on the other. It's rather frustrating because some very good artists may not have much of the in-depth knowledge you possess, and I can imagine because of their sheer skill they could land on big projects which, if done incorrectly, inform the public in a wrong way. For example, one may make an animated movie about dinosaurs and although such a movie would be for entertainment and thus doesn't need to be accurate, it does inform the public nonetheless. They may be deluded into believing very strange things. I couldn't give a particular example regarding dinosaurs, but I know this to be a problem in many if not most fields. I guess most of all it frustrates me when it happens within a scientific field of study because many people are quite ignorant about what the scientific protocol is anyway, and without such validation mechanism one may be deluded into believing very strange things—which we as a human species tend to do anyway. So I will say it again; I'm proud there are knowledgeable people in every field with enough passion for it to maintain the integrity of their field without succumbing to greediness. As for the artists you mention though, I would think they're passionate about their work, which makes me wonder why they don't seem to care as much about accuracy or originality.
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