Omeisaurus is Just Plain Wrong

August 28, 2008

When we were planning to start this blog, Matt wrote to Darren and me saying “I am thinking that we should keep the text short and sweet” — an aspiration that we have consistently failed to live up to. Not today!

Here is Omeisaurus tianfuensis. Even by sauropod standards, that neck is just plain crazy.

fig. 63)

Omeisaurus tianfuensis skeletal reconstruction, from He et al. (1988:fig. 63)

This figure is lifted from an awesomely comprehensive monograph — 173 pages including the front-matter and plates — which gives the lie to the idea that all Chinese dinosaurs are woefully inadequately described. It’s true that with the recent glut of theropods, the thing seems to be to rip ’em out of the ground, throw toegther a two-pager for Science or Nature and move on to the next one; but sauropods understandably inspire more devotion from their followers, resulting in careful work like this monograph and the similar work by Ouyang and Ye (2002) on Mamenchisaurus youngi. So hats off to He, Ouyang and their colleagues — showing how it should be done!

Special bonus photo

Home-made sushi

Home-made sushi


  • He, X., K. Li, and K. Cai. 1988. The Middle Jurassic dinosaur fauna from Dashanpu, Zigong, Sichuan, vol. IV: sauropod dinosaurs (2): Omeisaurus tianfuensis. Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Chengdu, China. 143 + 20 plates pp.
  • Ouyang, H., and Y. Ye. 2002. The first mamenchisaurian skeleton with complete skull: Mamenchisaurus youngi. Sichuan Science and Technology Press, Chengdu, China. 111 + 20 plates pp.

15 Responses to “Omeisaurus is Just Plain Wrong”

  1. Nathan Myers Says:

    How much of that skeleton was recovered?

  2. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    “I am thinking that we should keep the text short and sweet” — an aspiration that we have consistently failed to live up to.

    A failure I wholeheartedly applaud!

    That is a seriously disproportionate neck, even by sauropod standards. The cervicals are obviously very pneumatic, but are the caudals at all? I’d think they’d want to be dense to offset the preposterous neck.

  3. Zach Miller Says:

    Holy crap. Can I get PDF’s of those monographs? Please? Sillysaur at gmail dot com is my “heavy lifting” address.

  4. Nick Gardner Says:


    In all fairness, looking back over the past seven or eight years, there’s probably been a fairly equal number of theropods and sauropodomorphs described. Goddamn titanosaurs, no?


    Nick Gardner

  5. Robert B Says:

    Would someone plase ask Darren to check his gmail address? Please? i have an SV-POW! proposition.

    Cheers, Robs

  6. Did they have to always have sauropod tails dragging behind them. Come on, people! They knew better than that in the 80s.

    It still bothers me that in many natural history museums the tails of many different kinds of dinosaurs are still dragging on the ground…

    I wonder if Darren’s post on bent dromaeosaur tails with long rods has anything to do with the cervical ribs in sauropods and their flexibility…..(?)

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hey. Zach,

    Matt and I have a looong running project on cervical ribs, which we really really will finish off one of these days. But for now, I’m going to avoid talking about them too much :-)

  8. David Hone Says:

    While the monograph is indded hugely comprehensive, what the SVPOW boys have faild to mention is that it is incredibly poorly illustraded and photographed and the description in in Chinese. Oh yes, and it is almost entirely unavailable outside of the Zigong Dinosaur Museum. Oh and paper quality (at least in my copy) is so poor that all the ink shows through and so a scan or photocopy is pretty much illegible.

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, Dave — I am pleased to say that a scan is NOT illegible, and I know that because it’s what I have. The illustrations don’t look particularly bad to me — about as good as what’s in, for example, Riggs 1904 — though the photographic plates have not scanned well. Anyway, the reconstruction that this post was based on is lifted directly from the scan, so you can judge quality on that basis.

  10. […] give rise to familiar giants like Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus (as well as a whole panoply of less-well-known but equally fascinating […]

  11. […] The number of ways to increase the proportional length of the neck are limited: you can add cervicals, or recruit dorsals into the neck, or make the individual vertebrae longer, or do some combination of  the above. In sauropods, different clades took different routes. Brachiosaurids kept a fairly primitive cervical count of  13 but made the individual vertebrae crazy long. Diplodocids recruited dorsals into the neck, and some (like Barosaurus and Supersaurus) also made the vertebrae crazy long. Mamenchisaurids and Euhelopus added cervicals (independently), up to a total of 17 or more, and some (like Omeisaurus)–are you ready for it?–also made the vertebrae crazy long. […]

  12. […] than passing resemblance to the reconstruction from He et al. (1988:fig. 63), which you can see in Omeisaurus is Just Plain […]

  13. J. Easter Says:

    I’d be much obliged if I could get PDFs of these monographs too; thusfar I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else.

    aerosteon92 at gmail dot com

    thanks in advance :D

  14. […] neck is wacky. Maybe not as wrong as Omeisaurus, but pretty darned wrong. As I mentioned in the previous Rapetosaurus skeleton post, the cervicals […]

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