Family: Brachiosauridae (intermediate position)
Time: Late Jurassic, Kimmeridgian-Tithonian epochs, ~150 mya
Location: Tendaguru Formation, Tanzania (the "upper Saurian Marl")
Estimated mass: ~33 tons (subadult HMN SII/S116/Aa) up to ~50 tons (HMN XV2/HMN Fund no.)
*Now COMPLETELY REVISED and updated with fully restored original measurements and oft-overlooked rare specimens!*
They got Giraffatitan wrong! Dr. Werner Janensch’s giant brachiosaur, Giraffatitan brancai, has been controversial for many reasons, in debates ranging through everything from metabolism and posture to maximum size and heat management, but one of the greatest controversies has been over the many restorations of its skeleton over the years. It has come to light that these older versions, even some considered accurate today, contain incorrectly scaled and articulated bones, inaccurately drawn bones, and even some outright fabrications. Nearly ever part of Giraffatitan's skeleton was published from multiple specimens by Janensch in 1922, 1935-36, and 1950, and the most complete one, the subadult paralectotype HMN SII, was used as the basis for the Berlin mount and most skeletal restorations. Yet these skeletals fabricated certain bones, omitted bones, assumed incorrect placements, used specimens other than the ones most morphologically relevant to SII, misinterpreted Janensch’s notes, and made some parts oversized while distorting the true form for other parts of the animal. Many of these older skeletals were composited far more than necessary, making needlessly heavy use of scaled-up juvenile material for bones already known from SII (thus confusing the proportions), or in some cases even threw in bones that may not be Giraffatitan at all.
If you have seen one of these older restorations of Giraffatitan, then you have not seen the real Giraffatitan which is found only in this new Paleo King reconstruction.
For the first time, a modern, easy to understand, truly complete and uncensored reconstruction of Giraffatitan has been completed which reveals more than any past skeletal reconstruction. This beautifully detailed rendition is also the first Giraffatitan skeletal available as a signature print for purchase. The basic lateral view is also available as a print: paleo-king.deviantart.com/art/…
Also restored here for the first time are the original skull of SII (HMN S116) which replaces the smaller HMN t skull used in most older skeletals, and the hyoid bones scaled up from HMN S66. 100% new full frontal and dorsal views, including an updated sacrum, which has never been accurately restored from above before by any artist (most notably, GSP’s version actually censored the angles of the sacral rib articulations and completely omitted the holes between them). Cross-scaling the ilium, sacrum and pubes of HMN SII/Aa with the ilium, ischium and pubes of the younger HMN J, also reveals that the hips of Giraffatitan were considerably more bottom-heavy than resored by either Paul (1988) or Taylor (2009). The tail is re-scaled to the correct measurements of HMN Aa, which also included the mounted sacrum and is probably from the same individual as SII. It is significantly smaller than the tail used in the Berlin composite mount, HMN Fund no., a tail from a giant specimen around 13% larger than SII, which may belong to the colossal HMN XV2 and also includes the aforementioned 12th dorsal. Even more so than expected from previous restorations, Giraffatitan had a really small tail for a sauropod of its size.
Basic documentation of the first step of the restoration process back to the actual specimens Janensch found: paleoking.blogspot.com/2014/03… The rest follows on my blog in installments.
Giraffatitan brancai: UNCENSORED takes a look at this famous yet misunderstood dinosaur like no one has before and explains many elements that have confused both scientists and amateur dinosaur fans alike. We also see revealed several never-before-revealed skeletal components and limb-joint cutaways taken directly from the engravings in Janensch’s publications, that were quietly omitted from past full-body reconstructions, and even neglected in the recent RCI recast and remount of the Berlin composite skeleton.
World-famous as the tallest animal ever mounted in a museum, the east African Giraffatitan brancai was for many years considered a species of Brachiosaurus fav.me/d4slf2d , not least by the German paleontologists who discovered and prepared it. Yet it is confirmed since Taylor (2009) that Giraffatitan is a distinct and more extreme animal, with a shorter torso, longer neck, and even longer arms than the long-armed Brachiosaurus itself. It was also probably a bit lighter. The mounted skeleton in Berlin is primarily based on HMN SII, a teenage specimen around 75 ft. long and 33 tons as opposed to the 37 ton B. altithorax type specimen (which coincidentally was also a teenager). Both animals likely grew 15% bigger as adults, as evidenced by a large Giraffatitan fibula, HMN XV2.
The Humboldt Museum in Berlin houses all of the known Giraffatitan material, which comprises multiple individuals and growth stages, including skull material from four specimens. Though none of the specimens are complete, this animal is far better represented in the fossil record than Brachiosaurus, and the many overlapping remains allow for a very accurate skeletal rendition. This reconstruction was done using the nearly complete neck of HMN SII, without including any of the proportionally shorter HMN SI material which is typically frankensteined onto it by Greg Paul and others. The end result is a naturally longer neck than has often been depicted. The original skull of HMN SII (HMN S116) is fully restored here, indicating a much larger nose than the more immature HMN t1 scaled up and cast in the Berlin remount, as well as possible sexual dimorphism in this species.
Giraffatitan shared the tropical coastal conifer forests of Tendaguru with other endemic plant-eaters like the stegosaur Kentrosaurus, the small diplodocoid Dicraeosaurus, the bipedal ornithopod Dryosaurus, the barosaurine Tornieria, the diplodocid Australodocus, the putative camarasaur Tendaguria, fellow brachiosaur "The Archbishop" (which had an even longer neck!) and the mysterious "first titanosaur", Janenschia, which was more likely a robust acrofornican similar to Tangvayosaurus. Predators in the area included large allosaurs ("Allosaurus" tendaguriensis) and ceratosaurs ("Ceratosaurus" ingens) which are badly in need of redescription, and the odd small theropod Elaphrosaurus.
I reviewed and checked every line in Janensch’s papers, and for the first time, Giraffatitan is available in a detailed yet easy to understand version that leaves nothing out. This long road of research and sweat from the development of a new restoration from all available data on all known specimens has revealed hundreds of errors in past scientific restorations of the skeleton. Now you can discover previously unknown aspects to this remarkable and legendary animal and understand it as no one has before. There are many secrets in the bones of Giraffatitan brancai. They have remained hidden by poor and inaccurate skeletals since the days of Janensch’s original description, despite the plethora of excellent engravings of the individual bones that he published. Here, finally, the majestic animal's true nature is revealed.
As usual, this groundbreaking skeletal contains no GSP. Also no Hartman, no Larramendi, and no Czerkas for those keeping track.
Janensch, W. (1914). "Übersicht über der Wirbeltierfauna der Tendaguru-Schichten nebst einer kurzen Charakterisierung der neu aufgeführten Arten von Sauropoden." Archiv für Biontologie, 3 (1): 81–110.
Janensch, W. (1922). "Das Handskelett von Gigantosaurus robustus und Brachiosaurus brancai aus den Tendaguru-Schichten Deutsch-Ostafrikas". Centralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie 1922(15):464-480.
Janensch, W. 1935-36. Die Schädel der Sauropoden Brachiosaurus, Barosaurus und Dicraeosaurus aus den Tendaguru-Schichten Deutsch-Ostafrikas. Palaeontographica, Supplement 7 1(2):147-298.
Janensch, W. (1950a). "Die Skelettrekonstruktion von Brachiosaurus brancai". Palaeontographica, Supplement 7 (I, 3):97-103.
Janensch, W. (1950c). "Die Wirbelsäule von Brachiosaurus brancai". Palaeontolographica, Supplement, 7:27-93.
Paul, G.S. (1988). "The brachiosaur giants of the Morrison and Tendaguru with a description of a new subgenus, Giraffatitan, and a comparison of the world's largest dinosaurs". Hunteria, 2(3): 1–14. (Yes I have read the paper, and no, I did not copy Paul's skeletal - which is anatomically flawed in several ways.)
Taylor, M.P. (2009). "A Re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1903 (Dinosauria, Sauropod) and its generic separation from Giraffatitan brancai (Janensch 1914)." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 29(3): 787-806. www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/pub…
As it turns out, most dinosaurs are actually more gracile than I expected. Not a GSP level of slim, but still, on the gracile side of things. Most artists restore them too bulky relative to what the muscle crests on the bones actually justify.
I think what interests me most is how gracile it is relative to Brachiosaurus altithorax. Is there any chance of a multi-view look at the ol' big B in the near future?
Only one rib was fully described and published by Riggs (actually only the head of that rib), though it's alleged that the prepared specimen contained others. There were other ribs from the same specimen but apparently they could not be excavated in the first dig season and they were apparently stolen/poached or destroyed by unknown persons. This was back in 1900-1903 when there weren't laws regulating fossils and there were no video cameras or modern procedures to protect the secrecy of a dig site from looters.
Even if we had all the ribs from the original specimen, the one surviving photo of them shows they were badly crushed. So the precise shape of the rib cage in cross-section is a guess at best. I expect it would be a bit wider than in Giraffatitan, but still not anything too unusual for a brachiosaur... we're not talking titanosaur-wide bellies here, and the hips of the B. altithorax holotype don't get much wider than those of Giraffatitan HMN SII/Aa, if at all, in any case.
The rib found with the Potter Creek specimen, which may be a new species of Brachiosaurus, was reconstructed and cast by Jensen, but it too is crushed and warped. It's HUGE, but flattened by crushing. So these 8-foot or 9-foot ribs were once more curved and thus "shorter" in terms of spatial dimensions.
Of course the ultra-light design of the neck bones didn't stop at Giraffatitan. Some sauropods like Erketu, Daxiatitan, Rapetosaurus and most of the species currently lumped into "Mamenchisaurus" had even more extreme necks.
Also if you sell your drawing we need to work out a deal first. But if it's non-commercial then giving me proper credit will be fine.
Really Great work with this! Now o go to compare this skeletal with the others to better appreciate difference
However it's possible that the problematic specimen HMN SI could be a juvenile Archbishop, or far more likely, a related species given its oddly truncated neck. They both appear to have the slight forward hooked tip on their cervical neural spines.
Although there is some erosion, enough of the centrum remained that Janensch was able to restore it and there did not appear to be a pathology. The neural arch was actually crushed down and strongly forward during fossilization (I have "uncrushed" it quite a lot in fact) and in its published "as-is" state it would have needed either an even steeper angle of articulation, or there would have been no connection at all between the its postzygs and the prezygs of D10. Of course D10 is odd too, its condyle has that "droopy lip" but again this is symmetric on the fossil (so far as can be gleaned from it as it's heavily restored) so there doesn't appear to be an indication of an infection in D10 either. D10 and D11 are fused together but again the fusion is symmetric and does not have any swellings or lesions on the bone.
If this is a pathology, it would be a freakishly clean one, something like a one in a million chance. In most sauropod bone pathologies (*here's looking at you, Mamenchisaurus*) there is some sort of asymmetric distortion, or some lumpy domes of bone overgrowth on the infection/fracture/tumor site. But there's no hint of a tumor, infection, fracture, or healed bone overgrowth here in Giraffatitan. I think it's more likely the kink was a product of a natural ontogenic growth process, though there is always the possibility of a one-off genetic mutation. It does not however appear to be a typical pathology in the sense of the bone itself being diseased or infected.
Janensch had not the slightest doubt that the entire galaxy would measure time according to its arrival. Events would be marked by how far they had preceded the shadow, or by how long after it they followed."
- Saurian Wars, The Titanosauriform Way
Could you give me some tips at making a skeletal restoration of Epachthosaurus? And skeletal restorations in general?
Skeletals in general... you need to know 3 things. (1). SCALING. make sure you scale everything right. this is harder when cross-scaling multiple incomplete specimens. (2). FIDELITY TO IMAGE. often digitaly enhancing or drawing over the bones to make outlines can obscure important details. Make sure you keep this tendency of obscuration to a minimum. Stay true to the bones' shape. (3) ANGLES. Getting the right rotation and angles of articulation is critical. Many times your skeletal can look very different with just a small change in scapula or dorsal column incline. Know the important angles in a dinosaur's anatomy and how changing one can affect the others.
Other than that.... programs like Pixia offer a free and easy way to shade bones that are not known or existent in currently described specimens. Layering in pixia is also a good way to rearrange individual bones without loss of resolution or creating too many files.
On Epachthosaurus proportions, I already tried at doing a skeletal.And the dinosaur was much longer than Elaltitan.I considered the existence of 11 dorsal vertebrae (in the paper the authors considered 10) but I don´t know if this is right.
And do you recommend digital medium over traditional?Or a mix?
I am curious to see your Epachthosaurus skeletal. Much longer than Elaltitan? That's news to me, I'd like to see how it scales up.
The next one is going to be digital but what software you recommend for correctly scaling the elements?