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March 11, 2012
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Giraffatitan brancai hi-fi skeletal by Paleo-King Giraffatitan brancai hi-fi skeletal by Paleo-King
Giraffatitan brancai

Family: Brachiosauridae (intermediate position)
Time: Late Jurassic, Kimmeridgian-Tithonian epochs, ~150 mya
Location: Tendaguru Formation, Tanzania

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 [link] , not least by the German paleontologists who discovered and prepared it. However since Greg Paul's 1988 paper, doubts lingered as to whether two animals separated by scores of skeletal differences and hundreds of miles of land and water even in Jurassic times, could really be from the same genus. Dr. Michael P. Taylor set the record straight in 2009, separating the African animal from Brachiosaurus, and reaffirming the tentative separation proposed by Paul two decades earlier. Giraffatitan was not only different from true Brachiosaurus, it was also equally different from all other known brachiosaurs.

That said, the family resemblance is still strong. Yet Giraffatitan is a 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 of many growth stages, including skull material from three specimens. Though none of the Giraffatitan specimens is complete, this taxon 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 the paralectotype 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.

Giraffatitan shared the tropical coastal conifer forests of Tendaguru with other endemic plant-eaters like the stegosaur Kentrosaurus, the small diplodocoid Dicraeosaurus, the bipedal 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. Predators in the area included large allosaurs and ceratosaurs, and the odd small theropod Elaphrosaurus.

*Note: No GSP! Everything in this restoration was based directly on as much original data from Werner Janensch's description papers as possible, without using Greg Paul's skeletals. Indeed, with the shoulders drawn and scaled correctly, the incline of the backbone turned out considerably steeper than Paul ever envisioned it, making a vertical neck posture far less of a stretch than previously thought, pardon the pun :D . Many Thanks to Mike Taylor of SV-POW for posting photos of the bones and scans of Janensch's original engravings online, and including them in his 2009 paper.


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. (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. [link]
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Paleo-reptiles Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2013
Dear Nima

1- Can you send me Giraffatitan (with large size) by G. S. Paul for compare?????

There is my Email:
2- What is your opinion about
Giraffatitan by Scott ?…

3- What is your opinion about Giraffatitan by Asier?…

4- Can two paleo-art have such similarity but do not account as copy????

Best regards, Amin Khaleghparast  (a lonely biologist from Tehran, IRAN)
djlivus Featured By Owner May 8, 2013
Magnificent drawing!. For me (but also for some noted paleonthologists) brachiosaurids are the most beautiful dinosaurs because of their vertical posture, and long, elegant neck). I understood HM XV2 would have a neck of 9.5m long. What is the estimated overall height of this individual? Any dimensions for Jensen's Potter Creek brachiosaur and Waugh Quarry femur, compared with Berlin specimen? Are they bigger? What ratio?
bLAZZE92 Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012
If you have time could you help me understand this? recently I was curious of knowing how the limb dimensions of P2510 and SII compared to each other and there's something that I don't understand, why everyone has different measurements in their skeletals?

In Taylor (2009) it said that the surface of the distal end of P25107 humerus broke away due to weathering, if it was intact it would have been 216cm instead of 204cm but years after said paper, no one has done an skeletal with said measurement, was it wrong? in GSP's is 203cm, yours is 202cm with the drawing on the side being 195cm, in Hartman's is 196cm so I thought that he put the fossil "as is" without doing anything to it but then I remembered that the fossil was supposed to be 204cm so, what's going on here?

About the femur, from the photos on Taylor(2009) it was 204cm and Hartman's and GSP's are 204cm and 202cm respectively, in yours, the femur is 195cm in the skeletal and 204cm on the drawing by the side, Why is this? I doubt you'll make a mistake like that so I must be missing something.

I also have problems with Giraffatitan, like why Hartman and GSP don't use the estimate of SII's femur done by Janensch (~196cm) was it wrong? mmm but you use it.... so I don't know. It's also puzzles me why Hartman's Giraffatitan has femur and humerus of equal lengths.
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Well here's the long and the short of it (pardon the pun).

The Brachiosaurus altithorax humerus FMNH P 25107 is mostly complete. I doubt it was 216 CM but for all I know I could be wrong. The distal end of the humerus is weathered, but you can still see the shape of the condyles, so it's not like a huge chunk broke off. It's just missing the outer layers of the bone. Based on other brachiosaur humeri, the complete humerus probably wasn't a whole lot longer than what's left today.

As for the femur you may not be measuring it correctly, I rotated the femur for posing and verified the measurements several times. I went off of scale bars and I verified the accuracy of those as well, so the scale may not be perfect but it is very close. Also there may be some foreshortening, if you view the O'Hare airport mount you could get different lengths just by scaling from photos at slightly different angles.

GSP appears to use parts of different individuals more than is necessary to complete HMN SII, so I'm not surprised by that pattern of behavior. Not just the femur, but he also uses neck material from SI that overlaps with SII, instead of using SII for those same bones. The only cervical vertebra NOT known from SII is the axis, and there's a juvenile axis HMN Be1 which closely matches the elongate proportions of SII rather than the truncated ones of SI. SI is likely a different species, since the juvenile specimen Be1 includes other cervicals that match SII far more closely than SI. SI is smaller than SII as well as having different vertebrae proportions, but this does not indicate ontogeny, since juvenile Giraffatitans had cervical proportions almost identical to SII.

As for Hartman... most of his skeletals are more generic and "idealized" rather than directly based on the shapes of the fossils (he tends to smooth out the outlines of bones even when their natural roughness is not an artifact of crushing or erosion), so his Giraffatitan is probably a concept of what he thinks the "ideal" average Giraffatitan should look like, rather than any one individual. The problem with this approach is that it sometimes leads to incorrect guesstimates for limb proportions, especially when things like the femur of SII are not very widely used in earlier reconstructions, but would prove invaluable in getting the proportions right. While he avoids most of GSP's errors, you sometimes get the idea that maybe he's making his own skeletals smoother and less detailed in order to pre-emptively dodge possible errors. Still, I like Hartman's skeletals better overall.
bLAZZE92 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013
Thanks a lot for your response (:
Algoroth Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
No GSP skeletals injured? Aw, SHUCKS! Great skeletal! Yours, I mean!
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks! Yeah, the GSP skeletals were not "worth the plunder" as it were. They don't even have a tenth of the detail of Janensch's original engravings, and the proportions and shapes of some parts (like the shoulder blade, the sacrum, and the neck verts) are just plain WRONG in GSP's version.
Algoroth Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
We all have ways of wanting our restorations to look. I think mine look good, yours certainly look good, but I don't think either of us are wed solidly to the idea our versions MUST be correct or else.

I solidly respect and LIKE your work, otherwise, why say so? I certainly like GSP's work, most of it, and I respect his research and make some liddle use of his work--information and inspiration--in my own. Even so, I doubt anyone can say I'm a GSP cloner...I DO have my own ideas.

Same with you. I can spot your work a mile away--in a very good sense, just as I can spot GSP's work. However, your restorations breathe for me, GSP's are mostly paintings of taxidermy mounts; too stiff, too posed.

If I can survive some current troubles, I plan to finish Chaos Gigantes. Since I cannot demand to finish up your Paralatitan (I ain't got the money to pay you, after all!), I'll have to go ahead without your version. I am thinking ol' Paralatitanicus is basically Lognkosaurian, wide body, long legs and neck, maybe kinda-sorta like Alamosaurus. Close enoough for government work?
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks :D

Actually Paralititan is more like Argyrosaurus than a longkosaur. But Alamosaurus also looks more like Argyrosaurus than a longkosaur, since both are lithostrotians more derived than lognkosaurs.

Based on what little of Paralititan is known, it's closest to Argyrosaurus (especially in the humerus and the anterior caudals). And luckily for you, I've done Argyrosaurus. Maybe all I would change is make the head of Paralititan a bit more rounded, since Paralititan is older and probably more basal. But that's just guesswork at this point.
Algoroth Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thanks! Yes, I've seen your Argyrosaurus! Wonderful piece! :iconraptorlaplz: Take care! If I can manage to keep things together, I will complete or do another Chaos Gigantes.
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