Archbishop in kid’s book scandal

November 22, 2008

If you’ve been following SV-POW! closely – perhaps a little too closely – you will know of BMNH R5937, a Tendaguru sauropod collected in 1930 on one of the British Museum (Natural History) expeditions, and reported in 1931 by Frederick Migeod (pronounced ‘mee-zhou’). Discovered in the ‘M23’ quarry at Tendaguru, the specimen was assumed by Migeod and all subsequent authors to be another specimen of Brachiosaurus brancai, but what’s notable is that Migeod mentioned several features in the vertebrae of the specimen that really sounded quite un-Brachiosaurus-like. Despite the size and quality of the specimen however, nobody ever got round to studying it properly – until Mike did exactly this. An abstract and talk slides on the specimen can be found here. For whatever reason, the specimen has become known as The Archbishop.

While Migeod wrote about The Archbishop, he never published any illustrations of it (with the exception of a quarry map). I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets by letting on that Mike is working on a full technical desciption of the specimen, wherein it will of course be illustrated properly. Little known however is that The Archbishop has appeared in the literature before, but (unsurprisingly, and in keeping with tradition) has been misidentified as Brachiosaurus. After all, it’s a big sauropod and it comes from Tendaguru, so it must be Brachiosaurus, right? Here’s the proof: it’s p. 94 of David Lambert’s Ultimate Dinosaur Book, published by Dorling Kindersley in 1993. The Archbishop photo is, of course, up there at top right, masquareding as the dorsal vertebrae of Brachiosaurus brancai.

8 Responses to “Archbishop in kid’s book scandal”

  1. Matt Wedel Says:

    For whatever reason, the specimen has become known as The Archbishop.

    I believe that when Mike started working on the material we decided that it needed a cheeky nickname, and I suggested that it be something completely random and non-sequitur-ish like the Archbishop, and that happened to stick. Knowing our fascination with goofy nicknames and acronyms, is anyone surprised?

    Incidentally, Mike and I just got back from two sauroponderous weeks in Germany, and not one of the three hotels we stayed in had any form of internet access whatsoever. And Darren is out of the country on a secret mission for the Crown. These last two posts were put up by the WordPress robots. Seriously.

    Now that we’re back, stay tuned for more awesome than your brain can probably handle.

  2. Nathan Myers Says:

    There’s already more awesome here than my brain can handle, even with help from other body parts.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    If you think there is a lot of awesome on this site already, then stand by to have your intestines blown right out through your ears. I suggest that, for the next few weeks you view this site only while wearing dark glasses, and at a safe distance of, say, six feet from the screen.

  4. Nathan Myers Says:

    I guess now we know why the sauropods’ crania exploded.

    While we only have a web site — awesome as it is — they were carrying actual sauropod vertebrae around in their own bodies. How could their heads not explode once the sheer awesomeness of it all finally penetrated? We’re just lucky some of them (like some of us) succeeded in reproducing first.

    Learn from their example and make sure your life insurance premiums are paid up. This kind of awesomeness isn’t always pretty.

  5. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    I think Nathan just identified the true adaptive value of the small brain of the sauropod. Had they possessed the intellect needed to understand just how awesome their vertebrae were, their heads would have exploded prematurely and at an inappropriate time, panicking the heard instead of driving off predators.

    I will be commenting less frequently in future because, out of a sense of prudence, I will henceforth be reading SVPOW! only one word per day.

  6. […] of that: five cervicals in various states of repair, some cervical ribs, two excellent dorsals (featured previously, though not in a big way), two further dorsal centra and a dorsal neural spine, an indeterminate long-bone fragment and a […]

  7. […] decided to put my open-access money where my electronic-only mouth is, and submit the forthcoming Archbishop description to a PLoS journal.  In response to a challenge from Andy Farke, I rather precipitately […]

  8. […] all for today.  On Sunday evening I am off to London to spend a whole week in the company of the Archbishop.  The plan is to spend Monday to Wednesday taking final publication-quality photos (I finally have […]

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