The mounted Mamenchisaurus at Wollaton Hall

March 14, 2018

One of the field trips for last year’s SVPCA meeting was a jaunt to Nottingham to see the Dinosaurs of China exhibit at Wollaton Hall. We got to see a lot of stuff, including original fossils of some pretty famous feathered dinos – but of course what really captured our attention was the mounted Mamenchisaurus. This is a cast of the good old M. hochuanensis holotype specimen that has been put up all over the world, including in a car-park in Copenhagenon stilts in Chicago and even in a flooded basement in Slovenia.

Wollaton Hall houses the Nottingham Museum of Natural History, which is a fantastic trove of weird and wonderful things from around the world. We should really post about those things – I had them in mind when I was recently lamenting my lousy conversion rate of museum visit photos into blog posts. That will have to wait for another time. I’ll just note in closing that grand buildings and mounted sauropods go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and that this field trip was outstanding.

Mike Taylor, Matt Wedel, Darren Naish, and Bob Nicholls (kneeling) at Wollaton Hall, with Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis for scale.

13 Responses to “The mounted Mamenchisaurus at Wollaton Hall”

  1. nwfonseca Says:

    Dang, are the neck vertebrae really that narrow, or are they laterally flattened?

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    I think the narrowless is basically legit. The M. hochuanensis holotype does have distorted and broken cervicals, but you can see from the base of the neck that there’s reasonable preservation of the lateral processes, so you can be confident the vertebrae are not merely pancaked. For myself: I’ve seen casts of this specimen up close and personal several times, and I’ve never come away with the sense that the vertebrae are laterally compressed.

  3. nwfonseca Says:

    Wow, it’s just so skinny haha. It could in part just be a consequence of the perspective of the photo. It looks taller than wide that is for sure. I guess that kind of makes sense for something very long as that would resist bending down vs. the neck being wider than long. Sort of like turning a piece of beam material on its edge rather than face.

  4. nwfonseca Says:

    Oh, and this reminded me of something I thought about regarding your post about the inter vertebral cartilage and how it made the neck arc backwards. Could that have been a way of “pretension” of the neck? I was thinking that the vertebral disks were pulling or pushing the neck backward and the muscles and ligaments attached to the cervical ribs would pull the neck down out of that weird backward curl. It would be a passive way to save energy as the animal doesn’t actually have to use muscle power while holding up the neck. Is that nuts?

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    nwfonseca, I don’t think that’s nuts. I’ve thought for a long while that, the bigger a neck gets, the stronger the evolutionary case becomes for doing things rather differently, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the muscularly neutral pose of sauropod necks was horizontal or higher, rather than drooping along the ground. But I can’t think of a way to test that, since it depends on ludicrously great preservation of the epaxial tension members (not to mention that we don’t even know how much cartilage was between the vertebrae).

  6. nwfonseca Says:

    When I think of sauropod necks “or musculoskeletal systems”, my mind wanders to those little dancing push puppet Giraffes. They stand up with tension and I could see the necks of sauropods working similarly, albeit much more complex than a toy. It would be cool to 3d print a series of sauropod neck vertebra and use varying materials/ thickness of material to simulate intervertebral disks, muscles, and tendons to see how they function in a system. I guess that could be modeled in a computer, but it would be more fun to play with something in the real world.

  7. Chuck Says:

    Awesome picture post. But, what’s up with those feet on the arms?

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    This is specimen is a cast of the Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis holotype CCG V 20401. As explained by Young and Zhao (1972) in the original description, “forelimbs are represented only by a fragmentary sternum and proximal end of right humerus”. So essentially everything you’re seeing there ventral to the vertebral column is fictional.

  9. morosaurus Says:

    Hmmm… that cast does look familiar to my eyes. Could you clarify for me if another cast of M. hochuanensis mounted in the Paleozoological Museum of China(some images of the mount should be going up on Wikimedia Commons in a couple minutes, provided by yours truly) is also a cast of the type specimen?

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Point me to the photos and I’ll tell you.

  11. morosaurus Says:

    Mike: Here’s three links to photos of the mount(two from the same angle, viewing the skull+neck, and one viewing the lovely posterior of the sauropod).

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law, as none of your photos really capture the neck, but I’m about 98% certain based on the tail-base that, yes, this is the same specimen: compare with

  13. Matt Wedel Says:

    Yeah, it’s the same. I’ve been there and seen it in person. Sorry to not chime in earlier!

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