Brachiosaurs have always been my favorite sauropods - indeed, my favorite dinosaurs period. (Although titanosaurs, especially the big basal ones, are constantly jockeying for that position in my mind...). So with the new discoveries of the past decade expanding the numbers of genera in the ranks of Brachiosauridae, I thought the time was perfect to produce a "brachiosaur parade" of the most well-known and some of the most legendary animals in this amazing group.

In fact there are over 20 genera that are likely brachiosaurs, but only about fourteen of them are solidly described. Fourteen is plenty though - the diplodocids would easily be envious of such a number. This was going to be a pretty big affair, so instead of the standard 8.5 x 11 heavy paper, I used a not-so-heavy 11 x 17 sheet. Much bigger, and I have a big stack of 'em - but these sheets are not so well-textured. But this is a small sacrifice for drawing most of the known brachiosaurs - including everyone's favorite, Brachiosaurus, and its new headline-grabbing cousin (or should I say nephew, in evolutionary terms), Sauroposeidon.

The brachiosaur family is very complex despite the remains of most species being poorly known or fragmentary. They survived for at least 90 million years, from Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous (there are brachiosaur tail vertebrae known from the Campanian of Mexico), before going extinct. In this respect they were the most successful of all the sauropod families, except for their titanosaur cousins. Brachiosaurs are in a sense the rare gems of the sauropod world. Everyone's heard of them (or at least Brachiosaurus) yet they are far less common in museums, books, and even the artist's portfolio than, say, Diplodocus or even Camarasaurus. They are less often studied, less often dug up, but in my view, they are far more interesting - just altogether a way more awesome animal!

The brachiosaur parade involved fourteen different genera (based on their respective type species, with the exception of Brachiosaurus brancai and Pelorosaurus, presently a jumble of unrelated specimens whose true Brachiosaur material may not be the eroded non-diagnostic type P. conbeyari).

The genera are as follows, in an order roughly from the most primitive to the most advanced (except for little Europasaurus - I only had enough room for him at the end, even though he lived before the ones just behind him):

Daanosaurus ( = Bellusaurus/Klamelisaurus???)
Brachiosaurus (B. brancai HMN XV2 in this case - no I am not calling it Giraffatitan. Deal with it!)
"The Archbishop" (a brachiosaur somewhat bigger than B. brancai, with a longer neck as well, it was originally mis-labeled as a B. brancai for decades. Presently yet to be officially named, it's under research by Dr. Mike Taylor of SV-POW).
Pleurocoelus ( = Astrodon???)
Breviparopus (= Brachiosaurus nougaredi? Scaled from Morocco footprints as per Ishigaki 1989, with proportions based on Sauroposeidon).
Europasaurus - dwarf basal brachiosaur from Germany - likely a "feral migrant", it made its home on a Jurassic island and dwarfed to cope with limited food supplies.

I also included the biggest known T. rex for size comparison - this is the "B.rex" specimen, not Sue. It's a little bit bigger. But notice how this stinkin' theropod's torso is so tiny compared to most of the brachiosaurs' torsos.

The initial size of the scan was gigantic - I used FedExKinko's because I had to submit this thing to Prehistoric Times last-minute, and I was unable find another scanner big enough in time (my university had one that could be used for free by students and alumni, but it was down for maintenance). So there's ten bucks down the drain. Anyway Kinko's gave me something on the order of 20,000 pixels copied onto my flash drive and I almost passed out waiting for the thing to load onto Pixia (a quick, free image editor available for download online, basically the poor man's photoshop). Only this time with these huge files it wasn't so quick.

So I resized the thing on photoscape and used a blue tint feature to bring out any smudges and smears that still had to be removed. So here's the "ultraviolet" version I suppose...

Note that I also included scaled footprints for Breviparopus, and for Pleurocoelus (the Paluxy trackway prints called "Brontopodus birdi" which were almost certainly from a large Pleurocoelus or similar Pleurocoeline brachiosaur).

Afterwards, I made several shrunken photocopies of the original and colored one of these, and then scanned it on my own puny scanner to get this, leaving the T.rex uncolored:

Then I want back to the original scan of the uncolored version, and after editing out the smears and smudges (which is a chronic problem with standard non-heavy copy paper) I undid the "ultraviolet" masking to reveal the cleaned up image. Then I refined the height scale, drew some of the tongues that were missing (*gasp!*) and replaced the sketchy human figure with a high-contrast pic of Eugen Sandow.

Wait, you've never heard of Eugen Sandow? Here you go! If you're familiar with Charles Atlas, well, Sandow came a couple of generations before him.

And here is the labeled version. The height scale it, unusually, in feet rather than meters. So if you live outside the UK or the USA, feel free to bust out the calculator and do that x feet/3.3 thing...

I don't have much more to say about this piece, other than it's huge, it took over a month to finish, and the colored version was published in the latest issue of Prehistoric Times (grab one here), and special thanks to the editor Mike Fredericks for publishing it. Ironically, the black-and-white version that I scanned at Kinko's didn't even end up getting sent to the magazine. I figured the color version would grab more attention one I finally fixed the contrast on both. But the un-colored one has much better detail.

It's also featured in the ArtEvolved Sauropod Gallery (albeit in an earlier version). Thanks to Peter Bond for posting it there.


Coming up soon there will be a series of works entitled....

This will cover exclusively titanosaurs, from gargantuan limb bones discovered over 100 years ago, to armored tank-like oddities that have turned up just recently. For over a century titanosaur remains have been known, yet for most of that time they have been very poorly understood, and even the record-breaking ones were not much more than huge curiosities sitting on a dusty museum basement shelf or perhaps featured in some odd photograph in a remote corner of Donald F. Glut's dinosaur encyclopedia. While Argentinosaurus is fairly well known today, many similar titanosaur giants simply never got their fifteen minutes of fame, and aside from paleontologists and dino-geeks, barely anyone knew they existed.

For example, how many people know that while Brachiosaurus was considered the "biggest dinosaur" for most of the 20th century, there already at least two super-titanosaurs known that were easily twice as massive, one of which was actually discovered a decade BEFORE Brachiosaurus?

Titanosaurs have just been largely neglected, plain and simple. Most species don't even have a decent illustration to their name - even the relatively complete ones! That's going to change. Both old and new titanosaurs, some never before depicted, will soon make their entrance HERE, in the Paleo Kingdom.

Only recently have titanosaurs begun to be truly understood, and in many ways, rediscovered and reclassified as a cohesive group - and as the research yields important details about new titanosaur species, the group as a whole is coming into sharper focus - including the older finds that have sat gathering duast all these years. So my new series of titanosaur art, boldly illustrating beasts that have been long ignored, and that the majority of paleoartists haven't even dared to touch, shall be called: FORGOTTEN GIANTS.


Michael O. Erickson said...

Beuatiful work! I remember seeing that peice in the latest Prehistoric Times.

And... Sorry, I have to ask... Why not Giraffatitan? Even if you don't like the name (I'm not an enormous fan of it myself), personal feelings and preferences shouldn't interfere with the science IMO. I really don't care if the name was Crappystupidosaurus, if it's a different genus, it's a different genus.

Nima said...

Here's the thing - I'm not entirely convinced that it was.

Today species and genus identity varies in density across many animal groups. For example, there are species of birds that are anatomically identical. Yet they can not viably reproduce with each other. On the other hand there are creatures widely different in morphology, size, and behavior that are classed as a singular genus - Balaenoptera for example. Who knew Minke Whales and Blue Whales are the same genus!

Even a lot of the fossils classes as various species of Homo, look like they could be different species. Think of B. altithorax and B. brancai as somewhat like Neanderthals compared to Homo sapiens - one robust, the other gracile, with different lib bone shape, rib cage shape, etc.

The debate over whether B. altithorax and B. (G.) brancai. are different species or simply different genera is not conclusive, IMO. I've read Mike Taylor's paper, and it's an excellent paper with an excellent skeletal. That doesn't mean I agree with it though. They're still closer to each other than to, say, Bothriospondylus or Pleurocoelus, or any of the other well-known brachiosaur genera (especially the Archbishop!)

I actually wish the picture had been printed larger in Prehistoric Times, but I understand Mike Fredericks' concerns about supporting the magazine and covering costs, which is why ads get a lot of room but most of the art submissions don't. Even Greg Paul's brachiosaur images were shrunk down pretty tiny. Now that I look at it, the B&W version actually looks a lot better!

Michael O. Erickson said...

Well, I suppose it's probably also differing mindsets, too - the old lumper vs, splitter debate. I myself am a die-hard splitter - I accept THREE or FOUR species of Triceratops (T. horridus, T. porosus, T. elatus, and possibly T. maximus), two species of Deinonychus (the curved-clawed, lightly built type species D. antirrhopus and a much more robust, straighter-clawed species), and two species of Tyrannosaurus (I would place the supposed "T. rex" specimen AMNH 5027 - yes, the famous New York mount - as well as three other specimens including "Samson" in a new species). Incidentally, I also consider the genera Morosaurus, Brontosaurus, Diracodon, Epanterias (= Saurophaganax?), Nanotyrannus, and Gorgosaurus to be vaild as well!

So naturally I accept Giraffatitan as valid. But if you're a lumper (or a MegaSuperWayOuttaLinePleaseStop!Lumper, a term I've invented specifically for Horner) I can certainly see wanting to keep brancai as a species of Brachiosaurus.

Nima said...

LOL yes Horner is easily the king of the lumpers! I'll gladly decline the title; Paleo King is good enough for me :)

I'm not really a splitter or a lumper - more like a middle-road "splumper". I accept 3 species of Triceratops, not too sure about the Deinonychus, and perhaps two subspecies of T.rex but not two species (though I think Bakker does accept two species).

I also accept Epanterias, Diracodon (D. stenops/D. laticeps), Stegosaurus ungulatus, and ESPECIALLLY Nanotyrannus as valid (but not Morosaurus or Gorgosaurus). The specimen "Jane" is NOT Nanotyrannus! And I doubt that Seismosaurus is really just a big Diplodocus.

As for Brachiosaurus - I considered the whole Giraffatitan thing, but it didn't seem conclusive enough to me. I definitely consider b. brancai and B. altithorax as separate species but not separate genera, so I'm a splumper, IMO. I suppose it also depends on whether you speak of splitting or lumping genera as opposed to species. Compare both of them to other brachiosaurs that ARE unique species, and they do seem more similar than if you just compare the two in a vacuum.

BTW, I'm curious - what's your take on the Forgotten Giants idea?

Michael O. Erickson said...

First off... I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Forgotten Giants idea. Titanosaurs are so stupendously awesome, and yet so few artists ever draw them, and when they do they rarely do them justice. I say bring it on!

Second... Although I DO typically consider myself a splitter, I'm now thinking of terming myself an "extreme splumper" instead, because, for example, I'd be just fine with downgrading Grogosaurus to a sub-genus of Albertosaurus (making it Albertosaurus (Gorgosaurus))- I'm just cautious about knocking it all the way down to a simple species of Albertosaurus.

I accept Morosaurus because the skull is SO radically different than that of Camarasaurus, the genus that Morosaurus is usually synonymized with. What are these differences? A more steeply sloped and shallower snout, a curved (rather than straight) upper jaw rim, smaller nares, a smaller antorbital opening, a MUCH larger and rounder orbit, a curved (rather than straight) jugal, and much longer, more slender teeth. And these are just the very most obvious of the differences.

As for Deinonychus... There appears to be a very large, robust, and straighter-clawed form in the lower Clovery Formation of Montana, while a more lightly built, curved-clawed form is apparently limited to the upper part of the Cloverly. The type species D. antirrhopus is the lightly-built curved-clawed one. But why place the robust, straighter-clawed one in a different species, rather than simply a different sex or whatever? Two reasons - the apparent stratiographic separation, AND the shape of the killing claws. You see, such extreme variation in claw shape is not found in ANY modern predator - we're talking mammals, monitor lizards, crocs, birds, you name it. While claw shape CAN vary dramatically among different species in a single genus, such variation within a single SPECIES is totally and wholly unknown. We could say that Deinonychus did not fallow the rules set by modern animals, but we have absolutely no evidence to back such an assertion up.

As for Brontosaurus… I consider it distinct from Apatosaurus due to differing body proportions AND the fact that Supersaurus actually appears to be more closely related to Apatosaurus louisae than A. louisae is to “A.”excelsus. So we have two routes we can go with that one - resurrect Brontosaurus for the species excelsus, or sink Supersaurus into Apatosaurus. The later seems to be nonsensical Horner-style lumping to me. Also, Bakker claims that the braincase structure of the Brontosaurus skull he discovered in Wyoming is radically different from that of Apatosaurus. Although I haven’t ever seen Bob’s skull, I certainly trust his judgment.

BTW, I also agree that "Jane" is not Nanotyrannus. But my question is… what do YOU think it is?

Leo said...

Great, great, great work! I have to add your blog on my own blog's list on http://geomythology.blogspot.com/

Compliments and keep up the good work!


Raptor Lewis said...


What makes you question the taxa of the famous Tyrannosaurus specimen at the AMNH as not being a "T. rex?" In other words, what do YOU call a T. rex?

That mount is the TYPE specimen for Tyrannosaurus rex, so it should NOT be questioned, in my opinion.

Nima- Congrats on the publication for "Brachiosaur Parade!" :)

Nima said...

Thanx bigtime, but just to clarify something about your statement - the AMNH mount (AMNH 5027) is NOT the type specimen of T.rex. It's only the most famous specimen (and the "standard" one for most reconstructions of T.rex), but it's not the type. Thus, it CAN be questioned, and Michael may have a point.

The type specimen of T. rex (upon which Osborn based his description) is actually CM 9380 (Carnegie Museum). It's much more fragmentary than the AMNH specimen, and its dentary looks considerably different from AMNH or ANY of the other major T.rex specimens, and so do some of the doral vertebrae and the ilio-pubic penducle, so the controversy is understandable.

I'm not a big fan of splitting varied T. rex populations to the level of separate species, but I'd say that CM 9380 is AT LEAST a different subspecies than than the AMNH specimen, if not a different species. Michael actually raises a deep and legitimate point, though I disagree with it somewhat.

Go to this link:

and look for the picture "tyrannosaurs.jpg" and you will see the several differences between the AMNH specimen and the type.

Sue and the "Wankel Rex" also seem to be from yet another different subspecies based on the shape of the snout.

Hope this helps clear up the confusion ;)

Nima said...

Correction: AMNH T.rex is obviously not the most famous T. rex specimen anymore. That would probably be Sue. However, before Sue's discovery it was certainly the most famous, and thanks to Greg Paul and many artists the AMNH specimen is still considered the quintessential "rex" in artistic circles, and most modern illustrations use it as a model. But that doesn't change the fact that differs from the type specimen in several ways (thoug probably not enough to label it a separate species).

Michael O. Erickson said...

Dangdit, Nima beat me to the explanation. Not that I care, he explained better then I probably could have. :)

But I have two things to add. First, I must give credit where credit where is due, the idea that AMNH 5027 and a few other specimens form a seperate species was originally Bakker's idea, not mine. I'm just agreeing with it. Don't want anybody mistaking this for my theory. Second, I agree with Nima that Sue and the "Wankel Rex" form a distinct subspecies. But I maintain that AMNH 5027 is a distinct full species, based on tooth count, lachrymal foramen size, orbit shape, size of the nares, and overall skull shape, among a few other things. The differences are actually quite profound IMO. So in my taxonomy, there are two North American Tyrannosaurus species, T. rex and AMNH 5020 forming T. whatevertheheck, with Sue and "Wankel Rex" forming a T. rex subspecies, Tyrannosaurus rex whatevertheheck.

Zach Armstrong said...

Quick question for you Nima: how come you didn't include Atlasaurus in your brachiosaur parade?

Anonymous said...

Great work Chap!

I stumbled on your site through google this mourning and just told all the neighbours at the local pub. Tremendous talent young lad!

Anonymous said...

Hi, please contact me! We want to use some of your art for an exhibition.




martin said...

Yo tambien dibujo, y me interesa mucho el tema de los dinosaurios

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