What I did on my holidays

September 25, 2009

I made brachiosaur sand-sculptures.

Brachiosaurid in sleep hypothetical posture, left anteroventrolateral view.  Juvenile Homo sapiens (Daniel Taylor) for scale.

Brachiosaurid in hypothetical sleep posture, left anteroventrolateral view. Juvenile Homo sapiens (Daniel Taylor) for scale.

(And yes, it’s that Daniel Taylor, the author of Taylor 2005 — a copy of which apparently hangs on the wall of the Padian Lab.)

But wait!  Is the brachiosaur truly asleep, as it seems, or is it actually the victim of a mighty hunter?


Brachiosaurid in hypothetical death pose, left posteroventrolateral view. Mighty hunter (Michael P. Taylor) for scale. Note bemused bystander in middle distance.

No, it turns out it was just asleep after all; and I joined it.


Brachiosaurid in hypothetical sleep pose after all, left posteroventrolateral view. Brachiosaur's new best friend for scale.

… and finally: your obligatory sauropod-vertebra shot:

Obligatory sauropod vert shot: the Copehagen copy of Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis

Cast of Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis holotype CCG V 20401, in right lateral view. Need I draw your attention to the truly absurd neck? This cast is owned by the Homogea Museum in Trzic, Slovenia, and was on loan in the car-park of the Geological Museum in Copenhagen.


11 Responses to “What I did on my holidays”

  1. Zach Miller Says:

    Oh, that’s brilliant.

  2. Nathan Myers Says:

    What, sleeping with brachiosaurs? And what is the name for that position? Ladling, I guess. Or shoveling.

  3. Jamie Stearns Says:

    I would say it’s most likely sleeping. If it was actually dead, its neck would be arched backwards over its back, not downwards as it is in the pictures.

  4. DD Says:

    What I do not understand is how that huge Mamenchisaurus must have had such a narrow pharynx/larynx. All the breathing, eating/drinking, vocalizing, plumbing and sensory equipment in the post-cranial constricted anterior neck. I can see how an ostrich does it, due to past flight selecting for efficient/reduced organs, but a giant sauropod? That’s really a ‘stretch’.

  5. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    the scaps are wrong on that mamenchi, they need to be steeper and lower down – and that creates a lot of room for anything on the lower side of the neck.

    nice sculpture, Mike!

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Heinrich! I’m not getting sucked into a scap-angle argument again — at least, not until I’ve acquired at least a little knowledge on the subject :-) But I will say that there are other problems with that mount that are less open to discussion: for example the dorsal ribs are articulated with the centra of the dorsal vertebrae rather than with the parapophysis and diapophysis! See

    More photos here for those who want them: http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/mamenchi/

  7. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    Yikes! That’s gotta hurt!

    thanks for the pics though! I had a good laugh!

  8. Mark Witton Says:


    What’s the deal with the anterior caudals in the Mamenchisaurus mount? Not sure if you’ve covered this before, but there’s all sorts of weird crap going on there that looks pathological: the neural spines look like they’ve been attacked by an oversize toddler with a big pair of pliers, and there’s all sorts of painful-looking fusion. Any thoughts?

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    Mark, I sort of described what I saw in the caudals over on the page I linked; but how much of the represents pathology and how much is poor preservation or preparation, I couldn’t say. The cast, as I remember it, is not super-detailed — great for getting an idea of the shapes of individual elements, but not so good for figuring out that kind of detail. Then again, I was young and stupid when I saw that mount, so maybe there was a lot more detail there that I missed.

  10. […] Brachiosaur Beach Party: What do paleontologists do on vacation? Well, if you’re Mike Taylor, you make brachiosaur-sand sculptures. […]

  11. Graham King Says:

    Hi Mike, I only just now saw this, your excellent reconstruction of a sauropod non-standing posture – the lack of the study of such alternative but interesting postures, I was bewailing recently.

    Apologies due! as you had already tackled the topic in this admirably hands-on way (actually, full-body-on!)
    ..but modestly didn’t say.

    Can I look forward to further reconstructions? Maybe a snow-sculpture, of a squatting or kneeling sauropod? :-D

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