A new view of sauropod vertebrae

February 14, 2008


Ventral, to be precise. Here are the first few cervicals of Cetiosaurus oxoniensis, from the mounted skeleton in the Leicester City Museum. A more typical lateral view is shown below. Forget about the skull, it’s plastersaurus.


We tend to think of vertebrae as cylinders with weird bits hanging off, and in most mammals that’s true. (Incidentally, the next time you eat a t-bone steak, have a look at the bone. It’s one half of a lumbar [non-rib-bearing trunk] vertebra. Proof at the bottom of the post.) But sauropod vertebrae are wacky, and nowhere more so than in the neck. The condyle and cotyle are round and point to the ancestral cylindrical state, but the centrum in between is often nothing like a cylinder. First, it is frequently waisted–narrower in the middle than at the ends, like an hourglass–as you can see in the ventral view at top. Second, the ‘walls’ of the cylinder are usually so eaten away by pneumatic openings that what is left looks like more like an I-beam or stick person in cross-section. So sauropod cervicals are often only round where they have to be–where they fit together.


Hey, look, something red for Valentine’s Day! Awwww!

5 Responses to “A new view of sauropod vertebrae”

  1. Mike Keesey Says:

    Wow, I never noticed that about T-bone steaks before. Rad!

  2. Zach Miller Says:

    Me neither. Next time my dad grills some T-Bones, I’m telling him that he’s eating vertebra meat.

  3. Mark Evans Says:

    Thanks for showing some fine views of my “baby” – forty years old this year. We’ll probably have a party for it/him/her in the summer.
    Just to back up what Matt has said about non-round vertebrae, one of the more posterior cervicals (might be the sixth) has a bit missing in the middle of the “I-beam” part so you can see right through it. This specimen is a tribute to the hard painstaking work of John Martin and colleagues in the late seventies and early eighties. The bone is very very fragile and broken and the sideritic matrix was very very hard. Shganme about the lack of skull but, hey, that’s sauropods for you.

  4. chris y Says:

    Next time you’re north of the Trent, dissect a Barnsley chop, for further insights.

  5. […] with back muscles, which in fact bulge out beyond the tips of the neural spine, as we also saw here. This despite the common paleoart convention of presenting dinosaurs as thin layers of skin […]

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