Sauropod-related travel: Utah, 2008

February 5, 2010

Here’s one of those text-light photo posts that we always aspire to but almost never achieve. In the spring of 2008 I flew to Utah to do some filming for the History Channel series “Evolve”, in particular the episode on size, which aired later that year. I always intended to post some pix from that trip once the show was done and out, and I’m just now getting around to it…a bit belatedly.

Utah 2008 01 mountains from museum door

Here’s the view out the back door of the BYU Earth Sciences Museum in Provo, Utah. Not bad–the mountains actually made me drag my eyes away from sauropod vertebrae for a few seconds here and there.

Utah 2008 02 Brooks driving forklift

Here’s the view in other direction, with Brooks  Britt using a forklift to retrieve the big Supersaurus cervical.

Utah 2008 03 Supes and giraffe

And here is said cervical, with a mid-cervical of a giraffe for scale. You may remember the big cervical from this post (and if you click that link, notice how much nicer the new collections area is than the off-site barn where I first encountered the Cervical of Doom). Sauropods FTW!

Utah 2008 04 taping down Diplo vert

While the film crew were shooting Brooks and picking up some establishing shots, I was ransacking the collections for pretty vertebrae. We took our treasures up to the University of Utah med center in Salt Lake for CT scanning. Here Kent Sanders is helping me tape down a Diplodocus cervical.

Utah 2008 05 Kent in reading room

And here’s Kent in the CT reading room playing with the data. Like old times–I spent most of my Saturdays in 1998 and 1999 scanning verts with Kent when he was at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Utah 2008 06 NAMAL main drag

The next morning we went to the North American Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi. Here’s a view down the main drag, with the mounted Supersaurus on the left, mounted Brachiosaurus in the center, and original Supersaurus sacrum (on loan from BYU) in the case on the right.

Utah 2008 07 Matt in lift

The highlight of my day trip year.

I was back at BYU just a few months ago shooting another documentary, but that story will have to wait for the dramatically appropriate moment. Stay tuned!

11 Responses to “Sauropod-related travel: Utah, 2008”

  1. Ok, Matt, we’ll stay tuned. An amazing travel! I hope to do a sauropod-related travel soon as well!

  2. Nathan Myers Says:

    Mountains count as verts, too. Just not sauropod verts.

  3. Jamie Stearns Says:


    The Supersaurus mount in the Museum of Ancient Life is not to be trusted. It was reconstructed on the misconception that Supersaurus was a diplodocine (it’s actually an apatosaurine), based on a caudal series that was misassigned to the holotype specimen. The new, isolated specimen from Wyoming filled in a lot of the gaps and a reconstruction of that one can by seen in Thermopolis at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center.

    The major problems with the NAMAL mount are that the legs are too long and the whole animal is much too thin.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    We all know that Lovelace et al. found Supersaurus to be more closely related to (and maybe even embedded in) Apatosaurus than to Barosaurus — but I don’t remember hearing anything about diplodocine caudals having been misassigned to the holotype. Do you have a reference for that?

  5. Jamie Stearns Says:

    Yes, it’s mentioned in [url=]Lovelace, Hartman, and Wahl (2007)[/url]. A series of 12 articulated caudals along with three more isolated elements were assigned by mistake; there were apatosaurine caudals also in Dry Mesa that were found to be part of the holotype after comparison with the new material.

  6. Jamie Stearns Says:

    In case my previous message doesn’t show up, the reference is [url=]Lovelace, Hartman, and Wahl (2007)[/url].

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Jamie, I see it now on page 534: “We evaluated [various] characters in referred caudal material in the BYU collections (Table 1). BYU 12854, 12843, 9084 (12 articulated mid caudal vertebrae), and 9077 are incompatible with the vertebrae found at the WDC site, and should be reassigned to Diplodocinae incertae sedis based on their well-developed ventral longitudinal hollow.”

    I don’t think any of those specimens were ever particularly influential on perceived Supersaurus morphology, though: they are too far back in the tail (“distal proximal caudal” and “mid-caudal”) to have been very informative.

  8. Scott H Says:

    I’m sorry I missed this discussion – the misassigned caudals at BYU were actually quite instrumental in (mis)placing its phylogenetics. It was based on those caudals that Supersaurus was thought to exhibit barosaur-like caudal morphology, which lead to wide-spread discussion (albeit much of it out of journals) that Supersaurus should be sunk into Barosaurus much the way Seismosaurus was eventually sunk into Diplodocus.

    So those actually played a very important role, even if much of it was behind the scenes. The fact that they are actually Barosaurus caudals goes a long way toward explaining the similarity…

  9. […] scans of the whole thing. Mike: Good. Matt: I forgot that Kent and I scanned it back in 2008. Even blogged about it, fer cryin’ out loud.  So I can do the sum-over-slices, scale-for-other-verts thing for […]

  10. […] scans of the whole thing. Mike: Good. Matt: I forgot that Kent and I scanned it back in 2008. Even blogged about it, fer cryin’ out loud.  So I can do the sum-over-slices, scale-for-other-verts thing for […]

  11. […] because they’re all cloned from the Field Museum’s original. Here, for example (from this post) is the mount at […]

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