Going to see the big mounted Alamosaurus next week
March 20, 2013
Next week I’m going to visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, to see their big Alamosaurus (these photos were kindly provided by Ron Tykoski of the Perot Museum, with permission to post). See that sweet string of cervical vertebrae in front of the mounted skeleton? A photo of those same vertebrae when they were still in the ground was featured in the post “How big was Alamosaurus?” three and a half years ago. Happily now they are out of the ground, prepped, and on display, and Tony Fiorillo and Ron Tykoski are working on getting them and some other new Alamosaurus material described.
Here’s another view of that mount. You may be wondering, first, how legit is it, and second, how big is it? Happily, I have answers for you. In email messages with permission to cite, Ron Tykoski wrote,
The Alamosaurus skeletal mount by RCI in the photos is based upon scaling the Smithsonian and UT Austin material to match the size of our cervicals here in Dallas. There were enough overlapping parts between the pieces at the three institutions to get the proportions pretty nicely supported.
I ran across your SV-POW thread on ‘How big was Alamosaurus?’ back when you first posted it in ‘09. You ought to be pleased to know that you came remarkably close to the eventual size of the skeleton we wound up with. The full skeleton RCI generated (again, based off scaling to the Dallas verts) is 84ft long, about 16ft at the shoulder (I dropped a tape measure from the 1st dorsal neural spine to the floor during skeleton construction and got 480cm-490cm), and a neck + head of about 25ft. The overall length and neck length were provided by RCI after fabrication and assembly. That shoulder height is a bit suspect though based on the positioning of the pectoral girdle in the mount, relative to the ribcage and vert column. I think the head currently is posed about 25ft or so off the floor, but I can’t verify that (I didn’t get into the scissor-lift to check that at the time). This skeleton actually played a role in determining the size of the hall in which it is installed. We decided early in the planning phase for the building that this skeleton would be the centerpiece for the hall. As a result, the ceilings for this floor had to be made extra-high, and the mid-room support pillars designed out to accommodate the skeleton and still clear all the HVAC, sprinkler heads, and other necessities.
That’s all pretty fantastic–both that we have enough of Alamosaurus to do a pretty rigorous full skeletal mount, and that the beast was legitimately pretty darned big. Ron goes on:
One correction to the story on SV-POW, the Dallas cervical series consists of only 9 verts, not 10. There may have been frags or something that made folks think there was a 10th at the anterior end of the series when first found, but I’ve never seen evidence of it in our collection. This may be supported by the fact that the verts were given letter designations in the field (that we still use), and are identified as verts B through J, from anterior to posterior.
I later learned from Tony Fiorillo that the vertebrae were labelled B through J in the field in case anything anterior to B turned up, but nothing did, so the ‘A’ placeholder went unused. That reminds me of the search in the mid-1800s for the hypothetical planet Vulcan (not the one you’re thinking of) between Mercury and the Sun, which I bring up for no reasons other than that hypothetical planets are cool, and if you’re exploring, it’s worth keeping an open mind about what might yet turn up.
There’s more to say about the size of Alamosaurus–we haven’t even covered the big material described by Fowler and Sullivan (2011) yet–but I’m not going to say a whole lot right now, since I’m going to see the Big Bend material in Dallas in just a few days. Watch this space.