Futalognkosaurus was one big-ass sauropod

October 20, 2009

At the 2007 SVP meeting in Austin, Texas, I noticed that the suffix “-ass” was ubiquitiously used as a modifier: where an Englishman such as myself might say “This beer is very expensive”, a Texan would say “That is one expensive-ass beer” — and the disease seemed to spread by osmosis through the delegates, so that by my last day in Austin is was seemingly impossible to hear an adjective without the “-ass” suffix.

All of which is by way of introducing the fact that Futalognkosaurus really was a big-ass sauropod, as this photo of its sacrum (with articulated ilia) shows:

Articulated pelvis (sacrum and ilia) of Futalognkosaurus, in ventral view. Juan Porfiri (175 cm high) for scale. Courtesy of Jorge Calvo

Articulated pelvis (sacrum and ilia) of Futalognkosaurus, in ventral view. Juan Porfiri (175 cm high) for scale. Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

A version of this photograph (in black and white and with the background chopped out) appeared in Ferdinand Novas’s recent book (Novas 2009) and attracted some discussion on the Dinosaur Mailing List.

Although in the past, we have complained about the lack of measurements in the two papers describing Futulognkosaurus (Calvo et al. 2007, 2008), this photo demonstrates a lower bound on its size: we know that it was, at least, Darned Big.  (I would attempt to calculate some measurements from this photo using Porfiri as my scale-bar, but we all know how variable human proportions are, so it’s probably better to refrain.)  The great news here is that, as explained by Ruben Juarez Valieri in a comment on an earlier article, a third article is on the way that will contain all the measurements we want.

Anyway, here are some more of Calvo’s awesome Futalognkosaurus photos, all used with grateful permission:

Posterior cervical vertebra of Futalognkosaurus in right anterolateral view; Juan Porfiri (175 cm) for scale

Median or posterior cervical vertebra of Futalognkosaurus in right anterolateral view; Juan Porfiri (175 cm) for scale. Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

(That is an insanely tall cervical.)

Articulated dorsal vertebrae of Futalognkosaurus in ?ventral view.  And there is Juan Porfiri again, still 175 cm tall.  Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

Articulated dorsal vertebrae of Futalognkosaurus in ?ventral view. And there is Juan Porfiri again, still 175 cm tall. Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

How on Earth did they get that jacket out the ground and back to the museum?!

And finally — if you’ll forgive the flagrant appendicularity:

Right ischium and pubis of Futalognkosaurus in ventrolateral view.  Where's Juan?  Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

Right ischium and pubis of Futalognkosaurus in ventrolateral view. Where's Juan? Photo by kind permission of Jorge Calvo.

And now for something completely different:

Open Access Week

I’m pleased to say that this week (October 19-23) is Open Access Week.  Get over to the site for statistics about the rise of open access.  Particularly impressive is a sequence of institutions that are introducing open-access mandates, i.e. requiring that all research produced by its staff is made freely available to the world.  We’re on the way!

References

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31 Responses to “Futalognkosaurus was one big-ass sauropod”

  1. Steve Harris Says:

    XKCD on the use of -ass: http://xkcd.com/37/

  2. BtH Says:

    Thanks for posting these! Bu-bu-bu-big!

    Got any Argentinosaurus stuff? :-))

  3. Matt Wedel Says:

    Wow. I had not seen any of these before Mike posted them. Regarding the cervical, my possibly unhelpful but nevertheless heartfelt reaction is, “Holy balls!”

  4. Tor Bertin Says:

    Large reared donkey: ‘Big ass ass ass.’

    Also holy cervical!

  5. Zach Miller Says:

    I echo Matt’s reaction, but add a specifier: Holy GIGANTIC balls! “Testicles the size of pumpkins” indeed!

  6. David Marjanović Says:

    We’re slowly getting into daikaijuu territory here. That thing around the dorsal vertebrae… is that a plaster jacket!?!

    Median or posterior cervical vertebra

    “Median” means “in the sagittal plane”. Mobility in caecilians excepted, I rather hope vertebrae are median. :-)

  7. David Marjanović Says:

    I forgot to mention the DML report of Ceratosaurus dentisulcatus: “Ceratosaurus dentisulcatus is one kickass big theropod.” Not quite the same linguistic phenomenon, but clearly related.

  8. Augusto Haro Says:

    The name of the paleontologist is Fernando Novas.

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Augusto — dumb typo on my part, now fixed.

  10. Nima Says:

    Daikaijuu territory???

    Nay, my friend. This monster is up in FAZZ territory:

    http://www.mahq.net/mecha/gundam/sentinel/fa-010a.htm

    A man doesn’t even stretch the length of its HAND.

    Mobile Suit Gundam fans brace yourself: your dream dinosaur is here! That sacrum alone could probably crush a tank. I’m baffled at how they got it out of the dig site!

  11. Nathan Myers Says:

    I’m baffled at how they got it out of the dig site!

    I’m thinking catapult.

    For those (2?) of you who missed this: http://xkcd.com/650/ Points for identifying genus.

  12. ScottE Says:

    That is insanely McLargehuge!


  13. I just can’t put that into perspective without having Holtz units available. How many Holtzes is a Porfiri?

  14. Mike Taylor Says:

    I don’t know exactly how tall Tom is, but I guess not much less than 1.75 m. For the purpose of measuring giant pelves, they are probably close enough for government work — perspective distortion will account for more error.

    But what we really need is a palaeontologist exactly 2 m tall to act as the scalebar in sauropod photos. I know you’re tall, John, but maybe not quite up to the level we need. I don’t know if there’s anyone else out there who can provide the necessary height — if not, then platform shoes might be the answer.

    Similarly, I am trying to get my mass down to exactly 100 kg, so that it will be easier to do the calculations when I want to make statements like “It seems that the Giraffatitan brancai lectotype HMN SII massed only 233 times as much as me”.


  15. Well, according to Makovicky, a Holtz is the gold standard against which all things tyrannosaur are measured. I’m not sure if I translate over to matters titanosaurian. You might need to measure those guys in Curry-Rogers or Wilsons or something. (Taylors or Wedels might work, since brachiosaurs are pretty close to titanosaurs…)

    And I am just around 175-176 cm.

  16. Michael O. Erickson Says:

    That thing is TEH FREAKIN’ HUGE!


  17. “But what we really need is a palaeontologist exactly 2 m tall to act as the scalebar in sauropod photos. I know you’re tall, John, but maybe not quite up to the level we need. I don’t know if there’s anyone else out there who can provide the necessary height — if not, then platform shoes might be the answer.”

    Haha! At last my great height (1.93 meters) and habit of crossdressing (three inch heels should add the extra .07 meters needed) can intersect with my love of paleontology to benefit scientists worldwide. But sauropods? *groan* Why can’t I be used to measure carcharodontosaurs…. ;)

  18. Bakker Says:

    Great photos, awesome creature! Why not compare certain skeletal elements of _Futalognkosaurus_ and the same known elements (esp. vertebrae) of _Argentinosaurus_ or _Puertasaurus_ (_Antarctosaurus_, _Argyrosaurus_…) for comparison? Would A. and P. be bigger than this one?

  19. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, Bakker. Your idea of scaled comparisons is an appealing one, and indeed we have done a little of that kind of thing — see for example Matt’s figure of the three largest sauropod cervicals known to man (Puertasaurus, Sauroposeidon and Supersaurus) in the SV-POW! post Were the biggest sauropods the most pneumatic?

    The problems in general are, first the lack of overlapping material between the invariably fragmentary remains of giant sauropods, and second the difficulty of obtaining reliable measurements for scaling (see MYDD!).

  20. David Marjanović Says:

    Nay, my friend. This monster is up in FAZZ territory:

    Du-ude…

    That thing is just 22.11 m tall. The 1954 Godzilla, a rather small daikaijū, was about 50 m tall, and later versions up to 150.

    Regarding hands, the hand of a mere neovenatorid can reach half a meter in length… a mere four times that is larger than most people, five times encompasses even NBA players…

    As I wrote in the deathless Pharyngula thread: the biggest sauropods seem to have been the length of a small daikaijū and the mass of an average baleen whale.

    Points for identifying genus.

    To begin, its elbows bend in the wrong direction…

    Hi, Bakker.

    It’s probably Vladimír Socha of DML fame.

  21. Vertebrat Says:

    But what we really need is a palaeontologist exactly 2 m tall to act as the scalebar in sauropod photos.

    Or, failing that, there are plenty of children exactly 1 m tall who would happily serve as scalebars.

  22. Nima Says:

    David, I was referring to mass when I compared Futalognkosaurus to FAZZ. Not height (though 22.11 meters tall would be DAMN TALL for any sauropod… we’re talking Sauroposeidon height here…) In any case, at over 90 metric tons at full loadout, FAZZ is definitely up there in the giant titanosaur range.

    The reason I made the comparison is that I thought by Daikaijuu you were referring to the giant anime robot of the same name (alsk called “great Mazinger”), not the godzilla creature, whose “type name” I am not familiar with as I am not a godzilla fan (heh that was before my time lol)…

    By “average baleen whale” do you mean like a right or bowhead whale? they are average length but weigh up to 100 tons which is probably in the upper titanosaur range… I estimate a large body size with a sizeable neck for Argentinosaurus and its kin, rather than conservative dwarf Saltasaur proportions a la Ken Carpenter. Futalognkosaurus already proves these guys COULD have very long necks, plus with more measurements it may be prove to be the biggest of them all after Puertasaurus (which is likely bigger than Argentinosaurus).

  23. Warren B. Says:

    “I’m not sure if I translate over to matters titanosaurian.”

    I was under the impression the standard unit of measurement for sauropods was the elephant…

    Also, jumpin’ jehosephat! I didn’t realise that was a pelvis until I scrolled down and saw the whole photo. The cervical seems a little more intimidating to me, though. Somehow.

  24. cbe111 Says:

    WOW this is great

  25. David Marjanović Says:

    as I am not a godzilla fan (heh that was before my time lol)…

    Same for me (born in 1982). I just know how to say “giant monster” in Japanese. :-)

  26. Sameer Says:

    My goodness…that is very huge.Ive never seen a Articulated pelvis in any picture that size.Futalognkosaurus is one big monster.


  27. [...] Well. I knew that was something to look up. As it turns out, it’s also something to look up at: a futalognkosaurus is much, much more than a foot long. The skeleton that has been assembled from three specimens is 70% intact, which allows us to see quite surely that this enormous herbivore was about 33 metres long, and its head can be seen more than two storeys above your feet. (See “Futalognkosaurus was one big-ass sauropod.”) [...]


  28. [...] From Futalognkosaurus was one big-ass sauropod, this completely insane posterior cervical vertebra of Futalognkosaurus in right anterolateral [...]


  29. […] beats them all, and there are vertebrae of Puertasaurus, Alamosaurus, and Futalognkosaurus that rival the big Sauroposeidon vert, but those are either less well preserved or still awaiting […]

  30. dragonwlkr Says:

    First impression of the name under the picture with sleep and no glasses was Fukingbigasaurus which will do for a name until someone actually uses it….


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