Diplodocid sacra of the AMNH (and indeed the Carnegie Museum)

August 11, 2015

Back in 2012, when Matt and I were at the American Museum of Natural History to work on Apatosaurus” minimus, we also photographed some other sacra for comparative purposes. One of them you’ve already seen — that of the Camarasaurus supremus holotype AMNH 5761. Here is another:

diplodocus-sacrum-composite

(Click through for glorious 3983 x 4488 resolution.)

This is AMNH 3532, a diplodocid sacrum with the left ilium coalesced and the right ilium helpfully missing, so we can see the structure of the sacral ribs. Top row: dorsal view, with anterior to the left; middle row, left to right: anterior, left lateral and posterior views; bottom row: right lateral view.

As a matter of fact, we’ve seen this sacrum before, too, in a photo from Matt’s much earlier AMNH visit. But only from a left dorsolateral perspective.

When we first saw this, it didn’t even occur to us that it could be anything other than good old Diplodocus. And indeed it’s a pretty good match for the same area in the CM 84/94 cast in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (this image extracted from Heinrich Mallison’s beautiful giant composite):

img_4853-img_4886-v3-sm-sacrum

And the general narrowness of the AMNH sacrum says Diplodocus to me. But what is that expectation of narrowness based on? When I compared the AMNH specimen with Hatcher’s (1901) ventral-view illustration in his classic Diplodocus monograph, I had second thoughts:

Hatcher (1901: fig. 9). Inferior view of sacrum and ilia of Diplodocus carnegii (No. 94), one tenth natural size; bp, public peduncle; is, ischiadic peduncle; a, anterior end; p, posterior end.

Hatcher (1901: fig. 9). Inferior view of sacrum and ilia of Diplodocus carnegii (No. 94), one tenth natural size; pp, public peduncle; is, ischiadic peduncle; a, anterior end; p, posterior end.

That is a much wider sacrum than I’d expected from Diplodocus.

So what is going on here? Is Diplodocus a fatter-assed beast than I’d realised? I am guessing not, since my expectation of narrowness has been built up across years of looking at (if not necessarily paying much attention to) Diplodocus sacra.

So could it be that CM 94, the referred specimen that Hatcher used to make up some of the missing parts of the CM 84 mount, is not Diplodocus?

Well. That is certainly now how I expected to finish this post. Funny how blogging leads you down unexpected paths. It’s a big part of why I recommend blogging to pretty much everyone. It forces you to think down pathways that you wouldn’t otherwise wander.

References

  • Hatcher, Jonathan B. 1901. Diplodocus (Marsh): its osteology, taxonomy and probable habits, with a restoration of the skeleton. Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum 1:1-63 and plates I-XIII.

 

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2 Responses to “Diplodocid sacra of the AMNH (and indeed the Carnegie Museum)”


  1. Is it possible that the narrower hips belong to Galeamopus hayi or Diplodocus hallorum, and D. carnegii was a broader-hipped species? IIRC, several specimens previously assigned to D. carnegii were found to be D. hallorum or G. hayi by Tschopp et al. in their specimen-level analysis.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    I think it’s unlikely. Remember, the Carnegie mount uses the sacrum and pelvis of CM 84, the holotype — so by definition, that is what the sacrum of Diplodocus carnegii looks like. If, as I suspect, the pelvis of the referred specimen CM 94 is much wider, then the only conclusion would be that CM 94, not CM 84, is something else. (Or could it possibly the wider egg-layer pelvis of a female? I am guessing not: sauropod eggs were tiny relative to body size, so that wider hips would not really be necessary.)


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