I know this is a bit late in coming, but as pterosaurs consumed most of my attention, I almost missed this exciting piece of news.
Three new species of dinosaurs have been discovered in Australia and described in a groundbreaking new paper! And two of them are giant sauropods of the titanosaur sort- and they provide a lot of useful information for restoring these often poorly understood giants. Most of all it will be a lot of fun to draw these creatures. Sauropods never cease to fascinate, and titanosaurs are by far the most interesting of them all.
Meet the new giants: (in vertical order)
- Australovenator wintonensis, an allosauroid possibly close to Carcharodontosauridae;
- Wintonotitan wattsi, a basal titanosauriform (though the hand material in the paper looks like a true titanosaur);
- Diamantinasaurus matildae, a lithostrotian titanosaur.
Scale bar = 2m (I think..... so then the Allosaur would be ~30 ft (10m) and the sauropods would both be around 80-90ft. Pretty impressive! Those of you who want to see the entire paper can download it for FREE right here. Of course the guys at SV-POW beat me to it (here's their post on it if you haven't already seen it.)
Now as much as I like these preliminary restorations, I know the artist could have done better. I can do better. There are several anatomical errors in the painting and the titanosaurs don't even look like convincing titanosaurs (not even by the over-simplified standards of Ken Carpenter and many others in the field who assume every titanosaur looked like Saltasaurus [credit: Brian Franczak]).
Now check out some of the gorgeous fossils - here's the hand of Diamantinasaurus:
All four views show the titanosaur's right hand. C and D show it with the associated thumb claw and a mirror-replica of the first metacarpal based on the one found with the left hand (the one for this hand was missing).
Did I just say thumb claw? Yes. The authors of this paper make a convincing argument it's authentic. And the hand includes phalanges. This specimen goes a LONG way towards clearing up the confusion among lithostrotian titanosaurs.
I think we are beginning to see good evidence that highly derived titanosaurs DID indeed retain their thumb claws and phalanges, instead of losing them as was long believed. The enlarged bottoms of the metacarpals indicate that the phalanges were actually quite well-cushioned with cartilage and used to support the creature's weight. Indeed, it may be the loose phalange attachments of titanosaurs that led the phalanges to often be washed away, resulting in things like Opisthocoelocaudia, which APPEARS to have no phalanges, but the type specimen is simply missing them as a result of incomplete sedimentation or decomposition (plus, the skeleton appears to have been scavenged, so it was probably still exposed and the soft tissue was likely decomposing for a while before the whole thing was buried in sediment, which explains the loss of the phalanges and thumb claws...)
This also fits with Janenschia, one of the oldest titanosaurs, having thumb claws (painting by Andrey Atuchin).
Here's the pelvis of Diamantinasaurus. MASSIVE!
By the way, thanks to everyone that participated in guessing the identity of our mystery dinosaur. It is Dacentrurus. Congratulations to Darthsantuzzo for getting it right!
I figured the scale bar would make it pretty obvious, though this creature is not as widely known as I expected - Dacentrurus is the only stegosaur other than Stegosaurus itself to reach a length of 9m (~3o feet). Which is ironic considering that John Sibbick and many other artists often illustrate it as a much smaller dwarf species along the lines of Lexovisaurus or Kentrosaurus (Sibbick's Dacentrurus is the all-spiked creature on the bottom right - the spikes themselves are inaccurate).
The Dacentrurus project is well under way, but first the pterosaurs will have to be finished. Stay tuned for more soon.