[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

NEW FACE OF SAUROPODS



Yesterday saw the premier screening of part III of 'The Great Dinosaur Trail'.
This is mostly silly and very basic, but then it is for kids. Worse thing about
it is that new and relatively little discussed theories are touted as absolute
truisms - e.g. that (based on Suzuki's work I think) _Tyrannosaurus_ could only
manage a little squeak, or that _Tyrannosaurus_ was an infector-killer. I was
surprised that, in discussing _Triceratops'_ frill, they didn't state that it
was now thought to be a radiator (Reese Barrick recently did some isotopic
investigations 'proving' this). They don't emphasise that these are _theories_,
and are not universally accepted.

RESTORING DIPLODOCUS

Anyway, this episode included 3-D reconstruction of a _Diplodocus_ skull from
a skull cast: according to presenter Chris Packham, the first ever such attempt.
The whole thing was supervised by John Martin (best known for marine reptile
drawings) and was carried out by a bunch of anatomical artists. 

Basing the idea on narial position, they were determined to see the animal as
trunked (and you thought you'd seen the end of this idea), but in actually
sticking clay muscles on the skull, they found that a tapir or elephant-like
trunk just wouldn't work, and instead they gave the creature a big prehensile
overhanging lip, bit like a giraffe. The animal had a muscular ridge running
from the nares down along the nasals, and thus the nostrils were moved far down
the face. They were found not to fit terminally on the trunk, and were instead
put just above the end of the upper tooth row. 

They seemed to assume that the animal *must* be cheeked, and consequently gave
it muscular cheeks. Again, on apparently questionable logic, the animal was
given a hard pad infront of the lower tooth row, and it was explained that the
prehensile upper lip would pull foliage down onto this for biting. 

So, the result is (superficially) an earless giraffe.

Now, extreme significance was put on this reconstruction - Packham even said
that 'Based on this study, experts all around the world will have to rethink the
head of _Diplodocus_'. So now you all know. Shooting this thing down would be
easy, but what bothers me is that the artists said that they only reconstructed
what the bones said was there _to be_ reconstructed. This is at odds with what
I know of sauropod skull morphology. 

"I hope she floats"

DARREN NAISH