Brachiosaurus

And for once this really is Brachiosaurus and not Giraffatitan. Quite some time ago I put out a call for photos I could use on the Musings to help provide inspiration for new posts and provide images of things I couldn’t do myself. This series of images were kindly sent in my Michael Richmond though I must confess I have had them sitting around for about a year now without showing them off. Either Michael got bored of waiting or has been far too polite by not reminding me. Either way I apologise to him for going to the effort only to have me sit on them, but here they are now.

I understand this mount is a cast that sits in Chicago airport as an advert for the Field Museum. It certainly looks the part and there are some lovely shots of odd and interesting angles in there. My thanks to Michael and again, sorry for the delay.

7 Responses to “Brachiosaurus”


  1. 1 Robert A. Sloan 26/04/2012 at 8:47 am

    Gorgeous brachiosaurus photos! Thank you for posting them, and thanks to Michael for taking them.

  2. 2 Mike Taylor 26/04/2012 at 9:24 am

    “And for once this really is Brachiosaurus and not Giraffatitan.”

    … or is it? :-)

    Of course the problem with Brachiosaurus proper is that there is relatively little material of it: only the holotype FMNH P25107 really counts — none of the referred material is really persuasive. All we have of Brachiosaurus proper is the last seven dorsals, sacrum, one good anterior caudal, right coracoid and humerus, left ilium and right femur. (There’s also another partial caudal centrum and some fragments of right ilium, but they’re no use for the mount).

    To make a mounted skeleton, you have to bring in other material, so what did they do in Chicago? I’ve not seen this documented anywhere, but just based on looking at the mount pretty closely and being familiar with the material, I can give a pretty good idea.

    First, all the good Brachiosaurus material is cast and incorporated, which is great. The missing elements have come from various places. The left femur seems to be cast from a specimen of Giraffatitan. The left humerus is a model not cast from any real element nor mirrored from the right humerus. Some other elements seem to have been mirrored. The tail is made up of consecutive pairs of identical caudals, presumably because it’s cheaper to make two casts of a single caudal than single casts of two caudals! These, too, I assume are taken from a Giraffatitan specimen. The fourth dorsal is cast or modelled from the very distinctive D?4 of the Giraffatitan paralectotype HMN SII, and the remaining dorsals and all cervicals seem to be models, presumably based on those used in Janensch’s old Giraffatitan mount — not the much better models in the recent Berlin remount, which the Chicago mount predates. Finally, the skull is obviously based on Giraffatitan — I imagine on the not very good sculpture that the Berlin museum used in their old mount. (Again, the new mount in Berlin is much, much better in this respect, and features a skull that is based directly on the fossils.)

    None of this should be interpreted as criticism of the Chicago mount, by the way: It’s truly awesome — all that it ought to be. And scientifically valuable, too, since it exposes surfaces that can’t be seen in the actual Brachiosaurus type material: for example, the anterior surface of the real humerus is face-down and can’t be moved.

    (Matt Wedel once suggested that the left humerus of the mount is cast from the referred Potter Creek specimen that’s on public display at the Smithsonian. No. The one on the mount is heavily sculpted with lots of well-defined longitudial striations, especially near the distal end, and these are not preserved in the Potter Creek element.)

    Hope this is helpful.

    • 3 David Hone 26/04/2012 at 10:20 am

      Helpful and interesting Mike, thanks.

      I should say that I was under the impression that Brachiosaurus was known from rather more mateiral and while I was aware that bitts of G. had likely been sneaked into mounts because it had previously been referred to the same genus, I had no idea it was that much.

      Still the heart of my comment is still true I suppose, this is *supposed* to be Brachiosaurus! :)

      • 4 Mike Taylor 26/04/2012 at 10:27 am

        Yes, absolutely: it’s the closest thing in the world to a true Brachiosaurus mount, and just about the closest it’s possible to be given what’s been published up till now. And it’s my second favourite object in the world.

  3. 5 Zhen 26/04/2012 at 2:10 pm

    I’m still waiting for the papers on The Archbishop.

    • 6 Mike Taylor 26/04/2012 at 2:50 pm

      “I’m still waiting for the papers on The Archbishop.”

      Haha, touché! Your complaint is well justified — it’s taken amazingly much longer than I thought it would. It’s a bit shocking for me to realise that I gave a talk about it seven years ago at SVPCA 2005 in London. My only excuse is that I’ve got through a shedload of other work in the mean time. But I really, really, really will get it submitted this year.

      • 7 Zhen 27/04/2012 at 12:31 am

        Oh no, I wasn’t complaining. Just that your post reminded me of this specimen. I’m eagerly anticipating information on this guy. I hope you’ll provide us with lots of stats to compare with other sauropods. It’s actually a lot of fun to size up giant sauropods.


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