I am not usually one for field photographs — I am not a geologist, and one bit of rock looks the same as any other to me.  I suffer from a debilitating condition that renders me unable to see fossils in the ground, and am reliant on other people to dig ’em out, clean ’em up and reposit them before I’m able to make ’em into science.

But this … this blew me away:

Spinophorosaurus nigerensis, holotype skeleton GCP-CV-4229 in situ during excavation in the region of Aderbissinat, Thirozerine Dept., Agadez Region, Republic of Niger (Remes et al. 2009:fig. 1)

Spinophorosaurus nigerensis, holotype skeleton GCP-CV-4229 in situ during excavation in the region of Aderbissinat, Thirozerine Dept., Agadez Region, Republic of Niger. (Remes et al. 2009:fig. 1)

It’s the astonishingly complete and well-preserved type specimen of a new basal sauropod, Spinophorosaurus, that came out today in a paper lead-authored by Kristian Remes, previously best known for his work on Tendaguru diplodocines (Remes 2006, 2007, 2009) and for his work on the awesome remounting of the Berlin brachiosaur.

I’m not going to write the new taxon up in detail, but here are the figures of its vertebrae:

Spinophorosaurus nigerensis GCP-CV-4229 (holotype; C, E-I) and NMB-1698-R (paratype; A, B, D). (A, B)— Mid-cervical vertebra in left lateral (A) and ventral (B) views. (C)— Last dorsal and first sacral vertebrae in left lateral view. (D)— Clavicle in cranial view. (E, F)— Proximal caudal neural spines in lateral (E) and cranial (F) views. (G)— Mid-caudal vertebra in lateral view. (H, I)— Distal caudal vertebrae in left lateral (H) and ventral (I) views. Abbreviations: pcdl, posterior centrodiapophyseal lamina; podl, postzygodiapophyseal lamina; spol, spinopostzygapophyseal lamina. Scale bars = 10 cm.  (Remes et al. 2009:fig. 3)

Spinophorosaurus nigerensis GCP-CV-4229 (holotype; C, E-I) and NMB-1698-R (paratype; A, B, D). (A, B)— Mid-cervical vertebra in left lateral (A) and ventral (B) views. (C)— Last dorsal and first sacral vertebrae in left lateral view. (D)— Clavicle in cranial view. (E, F)— Proximal caudal neural spines in lateral (E) and cranial (F) views. (G)— Mid-caudal vertebra in lateral view. (H, I)— Distal caudal vertebrae in left lateral (H) and ventral (I) views. Abbreviations: pcdl, posterior centrodiapophyseal lamina; podl, postzygodiapophyseal lamina; spol, spinopostzygapophyseal lamina. Scale bars = 10 cm. (Remes et al. 2009:fig. 3)

(It’s a shame they didn’t figure more of it, especially as the paper was in PLoS ONE which has no length limits and absolutely stellar figure production, but it would be churlish to complain.)

Finally, here is the skeletal reconstruction: as you can see, it’s a decent size for such a basal sauropod.  Note the freaky all-osteoderm tail-club.

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Skeletal reconstruction of Spinophorosaurus nigerensis. Dimensions are based on GCP-CV-4229/NMB-1699-R, elements that are not represented are shaded. Scale bar = 1 m. (Remes et al. 2009:fig. 5)

A truly amazing specimen — I am looking forward to sitting down with the paper and giving it the attention it deserves.

Best of all, you can also sit down with the paper — because, like all PLoS articles, it is freely available to anyone who wants it.  Follow the link below and enjoy!  (Also available from the linked article: super-high resolution images of the figures.)

Timely Discussion From an E-mail Exchange Today

Matt Wedel: That animal is just flat badass.

Zach Miller: It has a goddamn thagomizer!!!

References

Remes, Kristian.  2006.  Revision of the Tendaguru sauropod dinosaur Tornieria africana (Fraas) and its relevance for sauropod paleobiogeography.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26(3):651-669.
Remes, Kristian.  2007.  A second Gondwanan diplodocoid dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic Tendaguru Beds of Tanzania, East Africa. Paleontology 50(3):653-667.
Remes, Kristian.  2009.  Taxonomy of Late Jurassic diplodocid sauropods from Tendaguru (Tanzania).  Fossil Record 12 (1): 23-46. doi: 10.1002/mmng.200800008
Remes, Kristian, Francisco Ortega, Ignacio Fierro, Ulrich Joger, Ralf Kosma, Jose Manuel Marin Ferrer, for the Project PALDES, for the Niger Project SNHM, Oumarou Amadou Ide, and Abdoulaye Maga.  2009.  A new basal sauropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Niger and the early evolution of Sauropoda.  PLoS ONE 4(9):e6924. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006924