Tataouinea hannibalis and its crazy pneumatic pelvis

July 16, 2013

Here is Tataouinea, named by Fanti et al. (2013) last week — the first sauropod to be named after a locality from Star Wars (though, sadly, that is accidental — the etymology refers to the Tataouine Governatorate of Tunisia).


Fanti et al. (2013: figure 3) T. hannibalis selected elements and reconstruction. (a) Sacral neural arches 1-3, right lateral view; (b) sacral neural spine 4, right lateral view; (c) sacral neural spine 5, right lateral view; (d) caudal vertebra 2 and fragment of caudal 1 postzygapophyses, left lateral view; (e) caudal vertebra 1, left lateral view; (f) sacral centrum 1, ventral view; (g) sacral centra 2-5, ventral view; (hj) caudal vertebra 3, anterior (h), left lateral (i), posterior (j) views; (k) left ilium, lateral view; (l) right ischium, medial view; and (m) skeletal reconstruction of T. hannibalis. Missing elements based on other nigersaurines. Scale bar: 10 cm (a-l), 1 m (m). a, acetabulum; f, fossa; hr, hyposphenal ridge; ip, ischial peduncle; ll, lateral lamina; pf, pneumatic foramen; pl, pleurocoel; poz, postzygapophysis; pp, pubic peduncle; psdf, prezygospinodiapophyseal foramen; sdl, spinodiapophyseal lamina; spol, spinopostzygapophyseal lamina; spzl, spinoprezygapophyseal lamina; sr, sacral rib; tp, transverse process. The asterisk indicates the fossa bounded by the spzl and the sdl.

No doubt Matt willl have much more to say about this animal, and especially its pneumatic features. I just thought it was time for a picture-of-the-week post.

UPDATE: Matt here, just a few quick thoughts (I’m in the middle of my summer anatomy lectures so they will be less extensive than this animal deserves). First, it’s awesome to see so much pneumaticity, and in elements that have not previously been reported as pneumatic in sauropods. The authors make a good case that we’re looking at actual pneumaticity here, for example in the pelvic elements, and not something else. So that’s cool.

What’s even cooler is that we’re seeing this in a diplodocoid:  Tataouinea is a rebbachisaurid. We’ve seen extreme pneumaticity in saltasaurines, and now we’ve got a parallel evolution of this character complex in diplodocoids. That’s cool by itself, and it’s further evidence that the underlying generating mechanism–the air sacs and their diverticula–were all in place long before they started leaving traces on the skeleton. The case for a birdlike lung-air sac system in sauropods, in saurischians, and in ornithodirans generally only keeps getting stronger. That is, we’re seeing more evidence not just that air sacs were there, but that they were bird-like in their layout, e.g., pneumatization of the pectoral girdle by clavicular air sacs, in both saltasaurines and theropods (avian and otherwise), and now extensive pelvic pneumatization (i.e., going beyond what we’ve seen previously in saltasaurines) by abdominal air sacs in rebbachisaurids and theropods (and pterosaurs, can’t forget about them). Happy times.


Fanti, Federico, Andrea Cau, Mohsen Hassine and Michela Contessi. 9 July 2013. A new sauropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Tunisia with extreme avian-like pneumatization. Nature Communications 4:2080. doi:10.1038/ncomms3080


20 Responses to “Tataouinea hannibalis and its crazy pneumatic pelvis”

  1. Andrea Cau Says:

    “though, sadly, that is accidental — the etymology refers to the Tataouine Governatorate of Tunisia”.

    Well… not at all accidental. The day Federico and me decided to name the sauropod, one of the species names we considered was… “skywalkeri”. Then, we have decided it is more correct to honor some real warrior, and from the region now named Tunisia (Hannibal Barca), instead of a fictional one from a galaxy far far away.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:


    Do you guys have a detailed description in the works?

  3. Andrea Cau Says:

    Yes. We are preparing a more detailed description, including new material found after the first ms was submitted.

  4. Are there any Star Wars names in the annals of biology?

  5. There is Han solo (a trilobite), Agathidium vaderi (a slime mold beetle), Darthvaderum (a bunch of mites), Polemistus chewbacca (a wasp).

  6. Mark Robinson Says:

    Polemistus also has P. vaderi and P. yoda. Then there are Yoda purpurata (acorn worm), Albunione yoda (parasitic marine isopod), Tetramorium jedi (ant), and Aptostichus sarlacc (trapdoor spider).

    I have little doubt that there are others.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Mark Robinson writes: “Aptostichus sarlacc (trapdoor spider)”.

    This one wins.

  8. Dean Says:

    It’s only a matter of time before the sauro-blimps start rolling out to fill the Mesozoic skies.

  9. […] singleton papers like Woodward and Lehman (2009), Cerda et al. (2012), Yates et al. (2012), and Fanti et al. (2013). Not to mention my own work, and some of Mike’s and Darren’s. And Andy Farke and […]

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hey, that’s great news! Congratulations!

  11. Andrea Cau Says:

    It’s both sauropod vertebrae and Open Access. Not enough? ;-)

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    Not enough for what?

  13. Andrea Cau Says:

    Just quoting the “SV-POW! … All sauropod vertebrae, except when we’re talking about Open Access”. ;-)

  14. Mike Taylor Says:

    Right, so this paper is very much relevant to our interests, but I’m still not clear on what you’re saying it’s “not enough” for?

    Is it that you’re disappointed we’ve not blogged about it? We’re not discriminating against you because of your wrong-half-of-saurischia blog — we just have a lot of stuff going on right now. For example, although this is supposed to be a public holiday in the UK, I am spending much of it preparing for part 2 of the Royal Society meeting on the Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication. And yesterday I did a set at a local music festival. So however much I love your paper, there just hasn’t been the time to blog about it (especially as most of my blogging effort right now is going into the General Election.)

    Hopefully one of us will get around to blogging the awesome new Tataouinea morphology. But we can’t predict when (or which of us might happen to have the combination of inclination and free time).

  15. Andrea Cau Says:

    No, Mike. It seems to me that you completely misunderstood my comment. Probably it’s due to my few knowledge of fluent English that results in bizantine comments, so I apologise (sometimes it’s very hard for me to translate what I mean in your barbaric language), my comment was just a sort of “is a link to a PlosOne paper on a sauropod not enough for this blog?”. It meant nothing else. Not intention to suggest a post by you here: as a blogger I hate people suggesting others to post in others’ blogs. Also, everything people would like to known about that sauropod is already on the open access paper (I’m kidding).

  16. Mike Taylor Says:

    “Also, everything people would like to known about that sauropod is already on the open access paper (I’m kidding)”

    No reason to be kidding. These are the days of miracle and wonder: we can make that true, now! That was certainly our intention with why giraffes have short necks.

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