A 3-D Dorygnathus skeleton

dsc_0052Another from the vaults of the Stuttgart museum. This is a modelled skeleton of the rhamphorhynchoid Doryganthus. Perhaps unsurprisingly you don’t often see rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs reconstructed in this way in museums for the simple reason that they are small and fiddly and have to be meticulously sculpted by hand since the few 3-D bones of rhamphorhynchoids that are out there are generally too fragile to cast, or have not been fully prepared from the matrix for the same reason. I’m not surprised if it’s a popularity issue either – why go to the trouble of making something like this when you can just stick up a 3 or 4 metre Pteranodon for the same cost and less effort? Getting a cast of a 2-D Rhamphorhynchus or Dimorphodon is easy enough so just stick that on the wall and don’t bother to show off how the animal might actually have looked.

It is therefore nice to see something like this being made to show the animal as more than Mesozoic road-kill in a rock. I don’t know why it was being stored in the basement and not on display but clearly a few bits are in need of repair, and it certainly is something that was once on show. Hmmmm, kinda run out of things to say here. The end.

7 Responses to “A 3-D Dorygnathus skeleton”


  1. 1 Zach Miller 14/04/2009 at 1:36 pm

    Ah, I love it! An excellent reference for drawing the little buggers while grounded.

  2. 2 David Hone 14/04/2009 at 2:12 pm

    Damn, I meant to edit that not post it. I was saving it for later. Oh well.

  3. 3 Mel Morgan 15/04/2009 at 12:31 am

    The Michigan natural history museum has a nice little Rhamphorhynchus skeleton on display next to a slab. It never occured to me that it would have been made by hand rather than from casts, but I guess that makes sense, given how fragile they are.

    As a budding paleo undergrad, it’s been really nice following your blog, especially since I have been flung into pterosaur research with basically no background knowledge of them. Getting some basics into my head has been really really helpful.

  4. 4 Bruce J. Mohn 16/07/2009 at 2:03 am

    I’ve just finished producing three dimensional skeletons of Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Texas Tech (just Pterodactylus). I had to sculpt all of the bones for these (as you note) due to the two dimensional nature of the fossils.

    If anyone is interested, I can provide images of the completed skeletons. The skeletons were produced from molds of the sculpted bones, so yes, I am selling complete skeletons and parts. You can see some of my work at http://www.dinoart.com

  5. 5 David Peters 26/02/2010 at 9:29 pm

    Dang!

    The big sternal complex, small antorbital fenestra, m4.1 extending to the elbow and other characters mark this sculpture as a Rhamphorhynchus, not Dorygnathus.

    • 6 David Hone 26/02/2010 at 10:06 pm

      Well the label said Doryganthus and the curator told me it was based on one of their Dorygnathus specimens. I’d have to check the literature for a proper comparison, but the point is more about the making of the model than the exact identity.

      At the very least there are enough Rhamp specimens with a large AOF (like the dark wing) to make that character far from convinving, I assume by 4.1 you mean the metacarpal which can hardly reach the elbow (I guess that’s a mistake but I’m not sure what you mean), and off the top of my head a least there’s no good complete sternum for Dorygnathus, so it’s hard to say how it *should* look, especially as even a putative complete one might not preserve an extensive cartilaginious edge as seems to be present in at lest some ramphorhyncvhoids judging by what preserves. The anteiror jaws are not especially curved as in Rhamp. and the skull shape overall is fairly Doryganthus like.

      Given that it’s supposed to be a display model, sculpted a couple of decades ago and based on 2d and often disarticualted materil you could probably make a case for it looking like half a dozen different taxa if you wanted. I’m happy to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who did the work (or at least what they intended, even if not what they produced). It would be wrong to say that the model is crude, less than perfectly accurate would perhaps be better, but that is really hardly surprising given the limitations on such a method.


  1. 1 Näin piirrät dinosauruksesi, osa 2 « Erään planeetan ihmeitä Trackback on 18/02/2013 at 8:54 pm

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