What’s wrong with this picture? No, really: what’s wrong?

November 21, 2022

Last Saturday I was at a wedding at Holy Trinity Brompton, a London church that is conveniently located a ten-minute stroll from the Natural History Museum. As I am currently working on a history paper concerning the Carnegie Diplodocus, I persuaded my wife, my eldest son and his fiancée to join me for a quick scoot around the “Dippy Returns” exhibition.

Here is a photo that I took:

Something is wrong here — and I don’t just mean the NHM exhibition’s stygian lighting.

Who can tell me what it is? $100 in SV-POW! Dollars(*) awaits the first person to get it right in the comments.


(*) Cash value: $0.00.

17 Responses to “What’s wrong with this picture? No, really: what’s wrong?”

  1. Orribec Says:

    The atlas is upside-down.

  2. Andrew Thomas Says:

    Cervical ribs on the atlast? Honestly, no idea.

  3. Adam Yates Says:

    Close, Andrew, but I’d say the entire atlas is upside down. What you are seeing as cervical ribs are infact neurapophyses I think.

  4. llewelly Says:

    well I have no real idea, but CV2 and CV3 seem to have had some of the finer details, like holes for the pneumaticity smoothed over, and the cervical ribs seem to be reconstructed.

    I’m just guessing based on this:


    which is a figure in which Hatcher reproduced the diplodocus cervicals, from a 2013 svpow post.

    I’m sure someone with actual anatomical knowledge will do better.

  5. Vincent Reneleau Says:

    Atlas is upside down. And axis cervical ribs are missing ;)

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Orribec wins the SV-POW! dollars — congratulations!

    In fact this atlas has no cervical ribs, like that of many (but not most) Carnegie Diplodocus mounts — stay tuned for details.

    I think that the axis does have CRs, contra Vincent Reneleau, but the photo doesn’t show them well against the centrum. (Phone camera, bad light, no tripod, jostled by tourists, etc.)

  7. Allen Hazen Says:

    On the topic of errors in skeletal reconstruction…
    The story is that Cope reversed the tail and neck of a plesiosaur (giving his rival March a noteworthy “gotcha”). One of the university buildings at U of Alberta has a (cast of an) elasmosaur skeleton hanging in the lobby: at least some of the cervicals have distinct enough pre- and postzygapophyses to make frontward and backward fairly obvious. Does somebody here know the details of the Cope/Marsh story? Cope wasn’t an incompetent: was he dealing with very fragmentary and poorly preserved vertebrae that he made the mistake?

  8. Jens Kosch Says:

    Hi Allen,

    There is a pretty good paper about the Elasmosaurus head on tail incident by Jane Davidson from 2002: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4065118
    (see also Everhart MJ. 2005. Elasmosaurid remains from the Pierre Shale (Upper Cretaceous) of western Kansas. Possible missing
    elements of the type specimen of Elasmosaurus platyurus Cope 1868? http://www.PalArch.nl, vertebrate palaeontology, 4, 3, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242762375_Elasmosaurid_remains_from_the_Pierre_Shale_Upper_Cretaceous_of_western_Kansas_Possible_missing_elements_of_the_type_specimen_of_Elasmosaurus_platyurus_Cope_1868)

    It seems like multiple people like Leidy pointed it out and Cope might have recognized the mistake (though it also was far fro ideal material in part), but seemed to stubborn to change it.

  9. Bryan Riolo Says:

    The aspect ratio is wrong. Squeezed too much it is!

  10. Dean Says:

    I see the correct answer has already been revealed, but aside from the cervical-centric, it’s missing sclerotic rings.

  11. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yes, Dean, that’s true; but it’s not really a mistake, just a near-ubiquitous defect of preservation.

  12. Allen Hazen Says:

    Thanks, Jens Kosch, for answering my (off-topic) question!

  13. LeeB Says:

    Interesting that Ichthyosaurs and Mosasaurs often have the sclerotic rings preserved; maybe this is saying something about the degree of ossification of their’s compared to that of sauropods.

  14. Mike Taylor Says:

    LeeB: could be ossification, or it could be the marine preservation regimen.

  15. […] time, I showed you a photo of the head and neck of the London Diplodocus and asked what was wrong. Quite a few of you got it right (including Matt when we were chatting, […]

  16. Jens Kosch Says:

    Aquatic reptiles (especially ichthyosaurs and some plesiosaurs) also often have huge sclerotic rings, sometimes covering almost the entire orbit or even stretching a little further than the orbit in lateral view. The ossicles can be quite big and presumably thick eyelids covered a huge part of them.
    So the individual ossicles being bigger and more covered up might also play a role in some marine reptiles having sclerotic rings more often preserved.
    (I just oversaw a reconstruction for an Ichthyosaurus and a Plesiosaurus model with a Cryptoclidus nearing completion as well, so I had recently a look at the literature.)

  17. LeeB Says:

    The reconstruction of the skull of the recently named Hainosaurus boubker from Morocco shows quite a large sclerotic ring as well, although perhaps not quite as large as that of some Ichthyosaurs.

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