The wonder that is MIWG.7306

October 3, 2007

Welcome to the third SV-POW! post. Given that this is my (me = Darren Naish) first post, I cannot resist using it as another excuse to post a picture of, and talk briefly about, the wonder that is MIWG.7306, the immense* brachiosaur cervical vertebra that I and colleagues described in 2004. A series of blog articles (on Tetrapod Zoology ver 1) were previously posted on this specimen and its history, starting here.

* Immense in terms of what experience I have with British sauropod vertebrae. With a centrum length of 745 mm, MIWG.7306 is the longest cervical vertebra yet reported from Europe… however, it is very much outclassed by far bigger vertebrae from Argentina, the USA and elsewhere.

7306 left lateral, posterior half

You’re looking here at the posterior half of the left side of MIWG.7306: the bone is broken in two. That’s actually a really useful thing with sauropod vertebrae, as it allows us to examine the internal anatomy. More on that subject another time, I’m sure.

MIWG.7306 serves as a reasonable introduction to a few subjects that we will, no doubt, be coming back to again and again. Firstly, it is an elongate bone: the centrum (the main ‘body’ of the vertebra) is stretched relative to the condition present in most other vertebrates, and at least some of the elongation present in the sauropod neck was evolved by way of this vertebral elongation. The different sauropod groups differed in the degree of elongation of their neck vertebrae: some exhibited a fairly moderate degree of elongation, and others went over-the-top silly with it.

Another interesting thing concerns the cavities you can see on the sides of the vertebra. Based mostly on the close similarity apparent between these cavities and similar cavities present on the vertebrae of birds, we think that – in life – these structures housed air sacs. This means that sauropods were pneumatic animals… there is lots more to say about this subject, and we’ll come back to it in future posts, I’m sure (particularly given that Matt is a leading world expert on the subject of sauropod pneumaticity).

Anyway, there we have it. My first SV-POW! post.

13 Responses to “The wonder that is MIWG.7306”

  1. Graeme Elliott Says:

    I thought I’d leave the first non-author comment on this site, and say wow.

    These vertebrae are very impressive, but I can’t help feeling the need for more than just the vertebrae! Where are the femurs and humerii(sp?), where are the skulls? Maybe there’s the need for SV-POW! Plus, where you bring in more about these fascinating animals!

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Skulls? Never! Not while there is breath in my body! And if you want a blog about sauropod appendicular material, you can get your own blog! You’ve seen the site’s tagline, right? “All sauropod vertebrae, all the time!”

    If you’re really, really lucky, we might just throw in an occasional post about sauropod ribs.

  3. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Sorry, Graeme, but you’re, at best, second non-author to post.

    As for me, if Darren, Matt and Mike can generate content about vertebrae alone, that will be very cool indeed and an interesting challenge. Sort of like writing poetry to a very constraining model.

  4. Matt Wedel Says:

    A literal reading of the fossil record forces us to conclude that most sauropods simply did not have skulls or heads.

    Now, you could make a case, based on the vertebral theory of the skull (in which the paired bones of the skull are all modified vertebrae), that we should treat skulls here too. But although we have a soft spot in our hearts for the vertebral theory, it’s just not supported by modern developmental biology. So I’m afraid we’re standing by our motto.

    We would welcome a Sauropod Skull Picture of the Week blog, but it could only run for two or three months, max.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh. I’m sure you’d like to see more sauropod skulls. So would we!

  5. Graeme Elliott Says:

    Ah well. I’ll accept the constraints of the fossil record. I’d also suggest an article on famous missing sauropod vertebrae, such as that one ‘lost’ on the train crossing America.

    Anyway, I still claim pole position as non-author poster by 15 minutes. It’s petty, but give me some satisfaction!

  6. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Your earliest comment I can find is here at “October 4th, 2007 at 12:07 pm” and I was in at “October 4th, 2007 at 11:46 am”. ( ) over in Hello World.

    It’s Cope and Marsh all over again! Who do you want to play, Cope or Marsh? I’m easy either way.

  7. Matt Wedel Says:

    I think I speak for the entire SV-POW! team when I say that we’re just happy to be fought over. Please continue.

  8. Darren Naish Says:

    If it came down to it, I would always have taken sides with Cope. His moustache was way classier. Oh yeah, and his work was better too :)

  9. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Ooh! Then I call dibs on playing Cope! Plus who wants to be called “Othniel”. Sounds like a sneeze.

  10. Graeme Elliott Says:

    Well I suppose I’d better concede defeat. I do however like Othneil, as I think it’s better than having Drinker as your middle name. My main question is how I can re-arrange your post time to mean that I can get a different post time out of it and then claim precedence!

  11. Darren Naish Says:

    For a bribe, I can use my administrative privileges to go back in time and delete Mike’s comment if you like. As you know, I accept beer, chicken curry, trips to the zoo… and cash!

  12. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    I’ve already taken appropriate screen shots, so it is too late. That dastardly Marsh will stop at nothing!

    Far from being a teetotaler myself, I don’t mind “Drinker” as one of my names at all.

  13. […] below the bottom of the image, and the cotyle off to the left (the opposite side of what’s shown here). The image below should help with orientation. The focus of interest is the unusual matrix-filled […]

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