The camarasaur that was more than it seeemed

July 21, 2018

This is SUSA 515, a partial skeleton of Camarasaurus on display in the Museum of Moab. (SUSA stands for Southeastern Utah Society of Arts & Sciences.) It was described by John Foster in 2005.

I like this thing. The neural spines are blown off so you can see right down into the big pneumatic cavities in the dorsal vertebrae. And unlike the plastered, painted, and retouched-to-seeming-perfection mounted skeletons in most museums, this specimen reflects how most sauropod specimens look when they come out of the ground. With a few dorsal centra, a roadkilled sacrum, and some surprisingly interesting caudals, it puts me strongly in mind of MWC 8028, the Snowmass Haplocanthosaurus (another John Foster joint: see Foster and Wedel 2014).

Frankly, it doesn’t look like much: 17 centra and some odd bits of pelvis. Surely, with so many good Camarasaurus specimens in the world, this one couldn’t possibly have anything new to tell us about the anatomy of that genus. And yet, it has a couple of unusual features that make it worthy of attention. My colleagues and I are working on those things right now, and you’ll be hearing more about this specimen in the very near future.


3 Responses to “The camarasaur that was more than it seeemed”

  1. Mickey Mortimer Says:

    Is that really displayed so that visitors can walk on the carpet and reach the fossil so easily? Seems like a theft risk…

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Two things that aren’t apparent in this picture:

    1. Directly behind me when I took the shot is the front desk and gift shop, so anyone trying to boost a Cam vert would be doing it in full view of the staff.

    2. I don’t know how much time you’ve spent handling real sauropod vertebrae, but even these modest examples (~25cm centrum diameter for the anterior caudals) are heavy as hell – 15-20 kg apiece. With John Foster’s permission I pulled a couple of examples out onto the carpet to photograph and it’s not something that can be done quickly or casually. With the base set up as it is, it’s impossible to straddle the vertebrae to pick them up, so just doing body positioning so you can lift one without straining your back is tricky and awkward. Imagine trying to swipe a 35lb dumbbell from a jewelry store and you’ll have a sense of the challenge involved.

    Anyway, they’ve been on display for years with no problems, so apparently they are safe.

  3. […] to digitize some vertebrae from SUSA 515, an unusual specimen of Camarasaurus that I’ve blogged about before, and will definitely blog about again. While we were there, we got to see and touch the Wiren […]

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