LIVE BLOGGING today - Sauropod Art!

Posted by Nima On Sunday, October 18, 2009 1 comments

Well, it's the big day, dino fans! Today at 3:00 pm I will do a live blogging event for drawing sauropods.

And I have made my final decision.... it's going to actually feature TWO sauropod species. Shunosaurus lii and "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis. So thanks to DerKompsognathus and EmperorDinobot of DeviantART for their suggestions.

If you're wondering why I chose these two, it's actually pretty simple. Both suggestions are incredibly amazing animals, and they're not illustrated very often (and good illustrations of them appear even less often... aside from Greg Paul, I don't know of a single artist who even comes close to doing these majestic creatures justice). Also both are Chinese sauropods, which are by all accounts extremely fascinating and exotic animals by North American sauropod standards. And finally, they are the only two suggestions I received that lived at EXACTLY the same place and time! There were so many other good ideas people gave me, and I had a hard time choosing... So I decided to stick two species in the same picture, give two paleo-fans equal credit, and these two were the perfect choice.

Shunosaurus was either a cetiosaurid or a primitive "Euhelopodid" (yes I still casually use the old family classification - which may yet prove to have some validity...). It was once thought to be a missing link between the two families, though the fact that it's the same age as Omeisaurus pretty much rules this out. Shunosaurus is actually one of the best-known sauropods. It was the compact version, at only 33 feet long, with a large body but a much shorter neck than many other Chinese sauropods. It was almost certainly a very social animal, with the remains of an entire herd being found in the Dashanpu quarry. Not surprisingly, the entire skeleton is known, including its most peculiar feature - a spiked tail club, something extremely rare in sauropods. It was a low-level browser with large thumb claws, an upturned top jaw typical of cetiosaurs, and large strong teeth.

"Omeisaurus" tianfuensis also lived the the Dashanpu area, and likely interacted with Shunosaurus. Though by having a much longer neck (indeed, freakishly long!) it probably did not compete with Shunosaurus for food. O. tianfuensis is not the "true" Omeisaurus - it's a totally different animal from the type species O. junghsiensis. However, O. tianfuensis is the most complete of all the species that have been thrown together in the "Omeisaurus" wastebasket, and as a result also the most popular. So whatever it really is, I will also stick my foot in the evil taxonomic tar, and call this real-life dragon Omeisaurus for the time being.

...Incidentally, the insanely long neck of Omeisaurus (or that of its even more long-necked relative Mamenchisaurus) may well be the original inspiration for the Chinese dragons of legend... it is known that such fossils have been dug up and labeled "dragon bones" for thousands of years. The serpentine shape of the dragon may be based on only a neck or spinal column having once been found centuries ago, lacking the ribs and legs...

At about 60 feet from snout to tail tip, Omeisaurus was light for its length, weighing only 8 to 10 tons. This makes more sense when you realize that its body was actually not much bigger than a large elephant, and most of its length was neck and tail. The tail is strongly arched at the base, and also appears to have possessed a club, though it was smooth and not spiked as in Shunosaurus. Some experts think the club actually was from Shunosaurus (which was found in the same quarry) and got assigned to the wrong skeleton. Though I disagree...
Like Shunosaurus, Omeisaurus also had huge, and likely prehensile, thumb claws. Considering its lightness, it probably needed them as a very dangerous active defense against predators like Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus. Omeisaurus didn't scratch at predators - it impaled them.

Check back at 3:00 for Live Blogging! See you then.


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