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Re: Amphicoelias fragillimus (gigantic sauropod) size overestimated? (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

Some quick thoughts on a very rough set of calculations based on Cope's article.

Page dimensions at the time for the American Naturalist were 8.5 x 5.5
inches, based on my own calculations from photocopied pages I have of
other articles from the journal (can't find my photocopy of this
particular article, however) and the product dimensions give on Amazon
for older issues:


Cope's drawing, indicated as being 1/10th natural size:


Cope's drawing of the estimated size of entire vertebra looks very
roughly about 7.5 inches on the displayed page in the Biodiversity
Heritage page (which may have been slightly cropped).  He states that
the drawing is 1/10th natural size, making the estimated full size
about ~75 inches or ~6.3 ft (1.9 m). This is not grossly off Cope's
estimate of "not less than six feet and probably more"  for the total
height of the vertebra in life.

If someone has the publication itself at hand or a photocopy of the
original in its original scale, they can improve on this.

The proportions of the depicted fossil material to Cope's estimated
total life size are very roughly about 1 to 1.55.  The stated length
of 1500 mm for the preserved portion would result in a total estimated
height of 2.3 m (7.7 ft), which seems at odds with the 1/10th scale
for the drawing.

A much better match would be a length of 1200 mm. That makes 1.55
times the preserved fossil length 1860 mm (1.86 m)  (73 in/ 6 ft),
very close to the 1.83 Woodruff attributes to Cope and closer to the
1/10th scale of the drawing and Cope's "six feet" estimate in the

1050 mm for the preserved fossil material times 1.55 would make the
estimated full length 1627 mm or 1.6 meters (5.3 ft). This would seem
smaller than the 1/10th natural size for the drawing and the "six
feet"  indicated by Cope.

There may have been a typo, but based on Cope's scale for his drawing,
it may have been 1500 for 1200 rather than for 1050.

On Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 5:24 PM, Ben Creisler <bcreisler@gmail.com> wrote:
> Ben Creisler
> bcreisler@gmail.com
> People can read Cope's original description at this link.
> http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/41316697#page/573/mode/1up
> On Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM, Mickey Mortimer
> <mickey_mortimer111@msn.com> wrote:
>> The irony here is too delicious to not comment on.  Woodruff and Foster 
>> propose Amphicoelias fragillimus wasn't so huge, and that the reported 
>> neural arch height of 1500 mm in Cope's measurement table was a typo for 
>> 1050 mm.  Yet their own measurement table comparing proportions using both 
>> sizes has a typo itself!  "Cop’s arch reconstruction"  Good ol' Edward 
>> Drinker Cop.  Hilarious.  Not a bad theory though.
>> Mickey Mortimer
>> ----------------------------------------
>>> Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:03:14 -0800
>>> From: bcreisler@gmail.com
>>> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
>>> Subject: Fwd: Amphicoelias fragillimus (gigantic sauropod) size 
>>> overestimated? (free pdf)
>>> A correction to the citation (wrong page numbers)...
>>> D. Cary Woodruff and John R. Foster (2014)
>>> The fragile legacy of Amphicoelias fragillimus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda;
>>> Morrison Formation – latest Jurassic).
>>> Volumina Jurassica 12 (2): 211–220
>>> DOI: 10.5604/17313708 .1130144
>>> https://www.voluminajurassica.org/volumina/article/view/173/153
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> From: Ben Creisler <bcreisler@gmail.com>
>>> Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM
>>> Subject: Amphicoelias fragillimus (gigantic sauropod) size
>>> overestimated? (free pdf)
>>> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
>>> Ben Creisler
>>> bcreisler@gmail.com
>>> A new paper in open access:
>>> D. Cary Woodruff and John R. Foster (2014)
>>> The fragile legacy of Amphicoelias fragillimus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda;
>>> Morrison Formation – latest Jurassic).
>>> Volumina Jurassica 12 (2): 211-220
>>> DOI: 10.5604/17313708 .1130144
>>> https://www.voluminajurassica.org/volumina/article/view/173/153
>>> In the summer of 1878, American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope
>>> published the discovery of a sauropod dinosaur that he named
>>> Amphicoelias fragillimus. What distinguishes A. fragillimus in the
>>> annals of paleontology is the immense magnitude of the skeletal
>>> material. The single incomplete dorsal vertebra as reported by Cope
>>> was a meter and a half in height, which when fully reconstructed,
>>> would make A. fra
>>> initial description Cope never mentioned A. fragillimus in any of his
>>> scientific works for the remainder of his life. More than four decades
>>> after its description, a scientific survey at the American Museum of
>>> Natural History dedicated to the sauropods collected by Cope failed to
>>> locate the remains or whereabouts of A. fragillimus. For nearly a
>>> century the remains have yet to resurface. The enormous size of the
>>> specimen has generally been accepted despite being well beyond the
>>> size of even the largest sauropods known from verifiable fossil
>>> material (e.g. Argentinosaurus). By deciphering the ontogenetic change
>>> of Diplodocoidea vertebrae, the science of gigantism, and Cope’s own
>>> mannerisms, we conclude that the reported size of A. fragillimus is
>>> most likely an extreme over-estimation.