Was the Umbaran Starfighter from Clone Wars inspired by an Apatosaurus vertebra?

December 13, 2012


Update, January 21, 2013: YES, it was! Scroll down for links to the entire saga.

Because it’s doing a hell of an impression of one, if not. It’s got the huge cervical rib loops (wings), bifurcated neural spine (top fins), and even a condyle on the front of the centrum (cockpit pod). About all it’s missing are the zygapophyses and the cervical ribs themselves.

Some actual Apatosaurus cervicals for comparison, from previous posts:

Apatosaurus ajax NSMT-PV 20375, cervical vertebrae 3, 6 and 7 in anterior and posterior views. Modified from Upchurch et al. (2005: plate 2)

Apatosaurus parvus CM 563/UWGM 15556 cervicals 7, 5, 4 and 3 in anterior and right lateral views, from Gilmore (1936:pl. 31)

Various Apatosaurus cervicals–see Wedel and Sanders (2002) for specimen numbers and sources.

And of course Mike’s magisterial work photographing the Apatosaurus ajax holotype YPM 1860 cervical:

More on the Umbaran Starfighter here.

The complete Umbaran Starfighter Saga–at least as told on SV-POW!:

For other Star Wars/paleontology crossovers, please see:

The sauropods of Star Wars

The sauropods of Star Wars: Special Edition

and–mostly as shameless self-promotion since the paleo link is pretty tenuous:

Tales of the Flaming Vagabond


9 Responses to “Was the Umbaran Starfighter from Clone Wars inspired by an Apatosaurus vertebra?”

  1. Mike Taylor Says:

    That is incredible. There is no way that evolved independently. It has to be deliberate. The question is, who designed it and when? One can hardly help but suspect that Jarrod did it on your instruction.

  2. Mark Robinson Says:

    Wow, just wow. I’m with Mike – that is highly unlikely to be coincidence.

    Obviously, if you’re stuck for a design for an unusual looking spacecraft, just copy a sauropod vertebra. You could have squadrons of manoeuvrable fighters based on Diplodocus and Camarasaurus cervicals, heavier craft drawn from Mamenchisaurus and Haplocanthosaurus cervicals, and with the fleet commander in a ship based on “The Archbishop”.

    Or something.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    True story. Until fairly recently, I planned to name another new sauropod based on a single isolated vertebra (a plan since abandoned, as Matt and I figure out its true identity, and it’s not something new). That particular vertebra looks particularly like a starship, and the name I was planning to use was Astrolembospondylus, which literally mean star-ship-vertebra. (I don’t mind the name not being secret any more, since I don’t imagine I’d use it for anything else.)

  4. Mark Robinson Says:

    Astrolembospondylus – that might actually be even more awesome than Brontomerus!

    Are you sure that you’ll never find another vertebrae that looks like a starship and which you would like to recognise as a separate genus or even species? It seems a shame to let that one go.

    I’d like a job coming up with names for new species. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time studying the specimens or writing detailed descriptions, and certainly wish to avoid the drudgery of preparing a paper for formal submission, but I could handle juxtapositioning appropriate (and usefully descriptive) dead-language word-roots. Or even living local language ones, except that I wouldn’t use “long” unless I was naming an actual dragon.

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Mark, glad you appreciate the name. I get the sense Matt was never very fond of it :-)

    Of course it’s possible that we’ll find another new taxon whose vertebrae are starship-like. But I don’t feel the need to gamble on it. And it’s not like the name would be unavailable to me if I did need it one day, just because it got mentioned in a blog comment.

    it would be great if creative wordsmiths did get involved in naming new taxa. Some of the very mundane names that get selected by scientists really leave me feeling that they represent a horrible missed opportunity.

  6. […] other mystery is — whose work is this design, and where did he or she get the shape from? In a comment on the last post, I said to Matt that “one can hardly help but suspect that Jarrod did it on your […]

  7. […] the Umbaran Starfighter seems to be closely modelled on an Apatosaurus vertebra — see these two blog […]

  8. […] seems to be closely modelled on an Apatosaurus vertebra – see these four blog posts [1, 2, 3, 4] (You don’t need to read them all, the first one gives the […]

  9. […] Was the Umbaran Starfighter from Clone Wars inspired by an Apatosaurus vertebra? (Dec. 13, 2012) […]

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