Little, big: the reveal

August 2, 2009


Here’s the answer to last week’s riddle. The big vertebra was obviously cervical 8 of Sauroposeidon, which you’ve seen here more than once. The small vertebra is also a mid-cervical, also from the Early Cretaceous, but from Croatia rather than Oklahoma. The very long centrum, unbifurcated neural spine, and extensive pneumatic sculpturing mark it as a brachiosaurid. It was first described by Dalla Vecchia (1998), and lavishly illustrated with numerous photos by Dalla Vecchia (1999). It was also included by Dalla Vecchia (2005:figs. 18.5 and 18.6) in the Thunder-Lizards volume from Indiana University Press, which is where I figured someone might recognize it from.

WNV-1 in hand 480

Here are two of those figures from Dalla Vecchia (1999)–note the thumb and fingers in the left-hand photo. The vertebra is about a foot long (~30 cm), which means it is TINY for a brachiosaurid mid-cervical. Note also that there is no sign of a neurocentral suture, so the critter was probably at least half grown and might have been full grown.

It is worth bearing mind that this super-tiny, pathetically titchy, adorable widdle bwachiosauw ve’tebwa is only a bit smaller than your average giraffe cervical.

Sauroposeidon vs WNV-1 480Speaking of giraffes, from left to right we have:

  • Sauroposeidon, scaled like HM SII x 1.15;
  • a 20-foot-tall world record giraffe;
  • WNV-1, scaled like 0.22 x Sauroposeidon;
  • a 6’2″ human, such as yours truly.

Note that I  could look over the shoulder of WNV-1, but it could not look over the giraffe’s shoulder, nor could the giraffe look over Sauroposeidon‘s shoulder. The giraffe could not walk under Sauroposeidon‘s stomach, but WNV-1 could walk under the giraffe’s.  If the mass of Sauroposeidon was 40 tons, that of WNV-1 may have been around 450 kg, or a little under half a ton.

I wonder which evolved first in brachiosaurids, stupendous size or stupendous necks?


  • Dalla Vecchia, F.M. 1998. Remains of Sauropoda (Reptilia, Saurischia) in the Lower Cretaceous (Upper Hauterivian/Lower Barremian) limestones of SW Istria (Croatia). Geologia Croatica 51(2):105-134.
  • Dalla Vecchia, F.M. 1999. Atlas of the sauropod bones from the Upper Hauterivian – Lower Barremian of Bale/Valle (SW Istria, Croatia). Natura Nacosta 18:6-41.
  • Dalla Vecchia, F.M. 2005. Between Gondwana and Laurasia: Cretaceous sauropods in an intraoceanic carbonate platform; pp. 395-429 in Tidwell, V., and Carpenter, K. (eds.), Thunder-Lizards: The Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

13 Responses to “Little, big: the reveal”

  1. Michael Ogden Erickson Says:

    But what bwachiosauw did the adorable widdle ve’tebwa come from?

  2. Nathan Myers Says:

    Obviously, stupendous awesomeness came first, accompanied by awesome stupendousness. Stupendous size and stupendous neck followed, at leisure, as night day. If the long neck had evolved before size, wouldn’t chewing apparatus have come with it, and then been abandoned once it became uneconomical, but perhaps left traces? How could that creature have digested anything unchewed with such a tiny abdomen?

    My daughter now suggests that sauropods’ heads were exploded by the spike in blood pressure when they lowered them too quickly.

    Is “can walk under” a formal measure of zoology, or is it used only by sauropodologists and giraffologists? I don’t imagine crocodilogists or mooseologists use it much.

  3. Nima Says:

    Wow nobody guessed it right. I never knew there was a Brachiosaur in Croatia… I’d say stupendous size evolved together with stupendous necks (unless the neck of Brachiosaurus isn’t quite impressive enough). Since this was the Early Cretaceous, there had already been giant brachiosaurs in the Jurassic.

    This guy dwarfed; my guess is he lived on an island where there was less range and biomass. Though crazy long necks like Sauroposeidon’s and this little guy’s neck probably evolved in the cretaceous, AFTER stupendous size… There’s an interesting parallel to Europsaurus here.

    Though I constantly see illustrations of “early brachiosaurs” like Bellusaurus and Daanosaurus with extremely long necks, though they don’t look much like a brachiosaur. Is that accurate? If so it means long necks evolved before stupendous size for brachiosaurs….

  4. Lukas Panzarin Says:

    Ehm…nobody guessed right except me ;-) Give a look at the last comment of the previous post…

  5. Matt Wedel Says:

    Hi Lukas,

    Yep, you got it–congratulations! That comment of yours was a timely prod for us to get the reveal posted. I was on vacation in San Diego over the weekend and asleep at the digital wheel, so Mike saved the day by posting my already-written Part II. But we forgot to acknowledge that you won the contest. So I’m going to make up for that right now by awarding you not the promised 100 SV-POW!bucks, but an unprecedented TWO HUNDRED SEVENTEEN SV-POW!bucks!! Remember, SV-POW!bucks are recognized as legal tender by anyone you can convince of their worth, and their uses have not yet been discovered! Have fun with your conjectural loot!



  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hey! No fair! Even I don’t have that many SV-POW!bucks.

  7. Nathan Myers Says:

    Mike: Maybe Lukas will give you some if you ask nicely.

  8. Lukas Panzarin Says:

    Mike & Nathan: I must see what I can do;-)
    Maybe after a beer at Svp in Bristol?

  9. Nima Says:

    It’s funny how my Barosaurus guess on the last mystery vertebra didn’t seem to win anything. Lol good thing SV-POW bucks don’t have foil strips or microprinting!

  10. […] So anyway, back to the coolness inherent in D’Emic’s tree. Of course, like all phylogenetic results this is just a hypothesis and it is subject to revision based on new information blah blah blah…but it is really interesting that there is now some phylogenetic support for an endemic radiation of brachiosaurids in North America (bonus goofy observation–you can’t spell ‘endemic’ without D’Emic). Or perhaps Lauriasia–I would kill to know where the British brachiosaurids (or basal titanosauriforms) fit into this story, and Lusotitan, and the apparently tiny Croatian carbonate platform brachiosaurs. […]

  11. David Marjanović Says:

    And still it is four meters tall!!!

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