Fighting apatosaur art #2: Brian Engh again

September 20, 2015

Last time, we looked at some of Brian Engh’s preliminary sketches of pieces to illustrate our fighting-apatosaur hypothesis. But there’s more: some way into the process, Brian also came up with this very rough sketch, illustrating a different style of combat:

ApatoNeckBreak

All the pictures in the previous post show various forms of ventral-to-ventral combat, but we’ve also been thinking about possibilities, and an important one is ventral-to-dorsal.

That could work in at least two ways. We can imagine a wresting match, where each animal tries to get its neck above its opponent’s, and to force it to the ground. There is precedent for this in the behaviour of various extant animals. (Or perhaps I should call it postcedent, since apatosaurs came first.)

But other extant animals have a much more violent combat style, based on striking blows rather than exerting steady force. Notably, giraffes do this, using their long necks as levers to crash their uncharismatic, highly fused mammalians heads into each other.

Could apatosaurs have done this? Not exactly: their heads were far too small to be effective clubs, and far too fragile to survive being used in this way. But the necks themselves would have been formidable weapons: we’re confident that apatosaurs striking blows would have done so with their necks, bringing them powerfully downwards on their adversaries.

Brian liked this idea enough to work the rough sketch above up into a completed drawing, which we also plan to include in the paper (and which, by the way, I unreservedly love):

ApatoNeckSmashRoughWeb

So what style of combat did apatosaurs use? Ventral-on-ventral shoving? Wrestling to the ground? Striking downwards blows with the neck?

My best guess (and it’s only a guess, necessarily) is that among the half-dozen or so recognised species of apatosaurine, all these styles were likely in use. And this may explain the variation in cervical morphology that we see between species (though of course ontogeny and sexual dimorphism may also be at work).

In short, I think all of these scenarios are credible — and therefore perfectly legitimate subjects for palaeo-art *hint hint*.

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9 Responses to “Fighting apatosaur art #2: Brian Engh again”

  1. Dean Says:

    I like the little splinter stuck in his side. :)

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’d missed that!

  3. derek Says:

    Do we see evidence of injuries caused by fighting?

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    You mean healed fractures? We’ve never seen them — see Matt’s comment on an earlier post for details.

  5. Bryan Riolo Says:

    I will take this thinly veiled hint seriously…soon… Yes, vee haff vays of doing this….!

  6. Mark Robinson Says:

    Hah, I think that succedent is possibly the word that you’re looking for, Mike! Altho’ I also think that precedent still works because it is the order in which information is collated which is important, rather than the order in which any possible acts may have occurred.

    Brian’s art kick’s butt. My favourite is the first pic on the prev post, altho’ I also like the ventral-dorsal whacking one above. That look’s like a nasty wound on the right ventral margin of the lower/loser’s neck.

  7. danieljpermutt Says:

    Love the lingual papillae. It’s the little things…

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    Lingual papillae for the win!

    And to follow, tiramisu.


  9. […] also the previous Fighting Apatosaur Art posts: Brian Engh #1, Brian Engh #2, Bob Nicholls. More to […]


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