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Re: Sauropod Necks



All:

I am not an expert on cervical verts in sauropods. Darren Naish quite rightly points out that some mammals (a handful, but still, they exist and are important outliers) have more or less than 7 cervical verts. My understanding of the Giraffe vert count was that it was still up for grabs, but maybe something has recently changed?

Scott Hartman and others on the list have quite rightly pointed out numerous problems or potential pitfalls, as well as areas that need more work, in DinoMorph. Neck motion in extant verts, independent testing, etc., are all sorely needed before we can more properly apply DinoMorph. I suppose one of the things I have found interesting (because it was also an initial reaction of mine as well) is that so many of us want and like our sauropods to have more vertically-oriented necks. The question that I throw out there, perhaps rhetorically, is if DinoMorph had shown that sauropods had vertically-oriented necks, would as many folks have been as critical of the research, or demanded to see more testing? Most of us accepted vertical sauropod necks before DinoMorph tested neck motion in the two diplodocids. Could we be clinging to an aesthetic idea?

In any case, the fact that a lot of people didn't buy the explanation of horizontal sauropod necks is a good first step. Skepticism is to be valued in science, if for nothing else than it keeps us honest. It's part of the corrective machinery of science I speak of often.

I am probably a bit defensive of the research (some would probably say more than a bit =) )because I know both of the researchers well and I have some ties to it. Plus, I forget sometimes that not everyone on this list has had the opportunity to see the specimens up close and evaluate things for themselves. And when people that have had the opportunity to view and evaluate the specimens disagree, most of us, if not acquainted with the materials, I suspect would tend to settle for what we are most familiar and comfortable with. I am just as guilty of this as anyone, and there are areas of dinosaur paleontology I remain almost wholly ignorant of.

At the moment, the burden of proof remains on the shoulders of the DinoMorph people to continue to show and improve on the results of their hypothesis to everyone else. That is what I have always advocated here and have tried to follow in my own research. (Believe you me, I have some rather odd hypotheses about sauropod locomotion and the evolution of various limb structures that I happen to like. Good thing there's peer review and healthy skepticism!)

From what I have seen of the specimens and DinoMorph program, it appears
that Diplodocus and Apatosaurus had horizontal necks which sloped downward when in the neutral position. I could be wrong, I could be biased, and I may be counting some evidence and ignoring other evidence. All of this is very possible.

Goodbye for now,

Matt Bonnan
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