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Re: Sauropods

Dino Rampage:

You have a lot of sauropod questions, so I will only answer one for right now.

You asked:
"4) What features are there to differentiate Eobrontosaurus yahnahpin from

I have looked at the "Eobrontosaurus" material during my dissertation. From what I could tell, it is an apatosaur and comparing the shape of the forelimb, manus, and pes especially, I don't get the sense that this is very much different, if at all, from Apatosaurus excelsus. This is my opinion based on what other Apatosaurus material I've seen, and there are probably those who would disagree with me. However, I did not notice any features, at least as far as the limbs were concerned, that warranted any erection of a new genus name, and perhaps not even a new species name. But again, this is my opinion based on what I've seen -- it just didn't look all that different to me, and with the shape analysis I've used to look at differences in sauropod bones, Apatosaurus yahnahpin did not differ significantly from any of the other apatosaurs in appendicular bone shape. It is a very well-preserved specimen and in excellent shape -- if you haven't seen it in person and you're interested you should. Very nice preservation -- probably one of the best preserved apatosaurs in the world, although certainly not the most complete.

"And is there sufficient evidence to warrant placing Apatosaurus
excelsus in Brontosaurus?"

Whether we like it or not (and many folks don't), Brontosaurus was sunk as a name when it was discovered that Apatosaurus was the same animal as Brontosaurus but was named earlier on scrappier material. The strict codes of zoological nomenclature tell us that, since Apatosaurus was the first name given to the material, Brontosaurus is now invalid or a junior synonym. Some people argue that because Marsh named both specimens there isn't really a problem, and that Brontosaurus should be resurrected as a valid genus name. I think this would cause more confusion than help right now, because so many articles have used Apatosaurus -- we'd have to go back through a hundred years of literature or more and sort out what who meant by what and what specimens they were referring to. What a nightmare! Anyway, there are others on this list far more knowledgeable than I when it comes to zoological codes, taxonomy, and systematics, so they may have a better perspective on this than me. However, I really don't see that Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus excelsus are all that different from each other (in fact, I can't think of a single significant morphological difference) that would warrant a name change.

Okay, one last tidbit: "Personally, I find it hard to believe that the diplodocids, dicraeosaurs, rebbachisaurids, brachiosaurs, camarasaurs and a whole host of other sauropod groups could have survived with the titanosaurs."

This is where the confusion and interest comes in with titanosaurs. We just don't know. Our record of titanosaurs is still relatively poor to have a good idea of what is going on with them as a group. Maybe diplodocoids, brachiosaurs, and camarsaurs DID survive in good numbers into the Cretaceous and they ARE what we call titanosaurs. Titanosaurs seem to be a hodge-podge of neosauropod characters and perhaps this is because they actually represent the two major neosauropods groups in their "new" Cretaceous forms. Or, maybe they were a new group of neosauropods, etc. We just don't know right now.

Hope some of this helps or stimulates other conversation about sauropods. =)


Matthew F. Bonnan, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University
Macomb, IL 61455
(309) 298-2155

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