An appeal for data on dinosaur tail data

Regular readers should be familiar with my 2012 paper on the lengths of tails in non-avian dinosaurs (those who you who missed it, for shame! can catch up with my post here). In this I looked at the general lack of complete tails in the fossil record, but also showed that tail length varies considerably in dinosaurs, and thus should not be included in length estimates or mass estimates derived from length.Collecting data for the paper I scoured a number of museum collections, went through as much of the dinosaur literature as I felt able, and also contacted numerous researchers and curators to ask for any ideas and things I might have missed or undescribed specimens hidden in basements and drawers. Many people were generous with their time and knowledge and by the end of it, I was really pleased with what I had in terms of a dataset.

Almost inevitably though, without hours of publication and my blog post on the subject, people started contacting me with new leads. Many were things I had looked at and decided were not complete, but some were things I had missed and represented additional data. Great though this was, there was not a lot I could do with even a handful of new data – the paper was done. However, inspired I did dive back into the literature and had another look and did find a few more and as you may have guessed, have now got as far as I, or rather we, can. This time out I’m collaborating with Scott Persons (who has been doing a lot of his own tails stuff) and a mathematically inclined colleague Steve Le Comber.

Scott and I have pooled our resources and have now found nearly 50 dinosaur specimens with complete tails, though we have this time out also been including specimens with ‘nearly’ complete tails. Obviously subjective, but we’re working on that.

Anyway, we’re appealing for more data. If you are aware of a dinosaur that has a truly complete (every single caudal vert, down to the last nub) tail, that’s not on the list, then do please let us know. If you know of something that’s near complete (maybe just a tip missing, or a couple in the middle or similar) do also let us know. Please be as specific as possible – “I think I saw a hadrosaur with a good tail in the AMNH” isn’t going to win you any prizes or get us anywhere, and we have at this point checked out a lot of material. On that note, all we can really offer is a mention in the acknowledgements for good leads that yield datapoints, and this may also include some limited measure of gratitude, or even a pint at the next conference where you catch us. Maybe.

Here are the lists of what we have to date.

Complete tails:

Othneilosaurus SMA 0010
Jeholosaurus IVPP V 12529
Scleidosaurus NHM R1111
Scutellosaurus MNA PI. 175
“Saichania” MPC 100/1305
Pinacosaurus PIN 614
Dyoplosaurus Arbour et al., 2009
Dryosaurus YPM 1884
Tethyshadros Dalla Vecchia, 2009
Edmontosaurus Lull and Wright, 1942
Lambeosaurus ROM 1218
Corythosaurus ROM 845
Hadrosauridae indet TMP 1998.58.01
Centrosaurus Brown, 1917
Psittacosaurus Sereno, 1987
Psittacosaurus IVPP V 120888
Coelophysis AMNH 7229
Sinocalliopteryx JMP-V-05-8-01
Gorgosaurus Currie, 2003
Gallimimus Osmólska et al., 1972
Ornithomimus TMP 1995.11.001
Caudipteryx IVPP V 12430
Nomingia Barsbold et al., 2000
Microraptor IVPP V 13352
Mei Xu and Norell, 2004
Jinfengopteryx CAGS IG 040801
Archaeopteryx Wellnhofer, 1974
Epidexipteryx IVPP V 15471
Lufengosaurus Young, 1941
Camarasaurus Gilmore, 1925
Opisthocoelicaudia Borsuk-Bialynicka, 1977
Protoceratops Fastovsky et al. 2012
Protoceratops Fastovsky et al. 2012
Leaellynasaura Herne pers comm
Chasmosaurine Mallon, 2010
Stegosaurus SMA 0092
Archaeoceratops IVPP V11115
Parksosaurus ROM 804
Anchiceratops CMN 8547
Microraptor Li et al 2012
Anchiornis IVPP
Sinusonasus Xu & Wang 2004
Spinophorosaurus Remes et al 2009
Kentrosaurus Holotype
Ornithomimid TMP 90.26.01
Tenontosaurus OMNH data

Near complete tails:

Epidendrosaurus IVPP V 12653
Sinornithoides IVPP V9612
Ceratosaurus USNM 4735
Khaan IGM 100/1127
Corythosaurus Lull & Wright, AMNH 5240
Anatosaurus Lull & Wright 8399
Anatosaurus lull & wright
Tianyuraptor Zheng et al 2009
Apatosaurus Gilmore 1936
Juravenator Chiappe & Goehlich, 2010
Sciurumimus Rauhut et al 2012
Psittacosaurus sinensis IVPP V 738
Psittacosaurus IVPP V14341.1
Psittacosaurus IVPP V14341.2
Psittacosaurus IVPP V14341.3
Psittacosaurus IVPP V14341.4
Sinocalliopteryx Ji et al 3007
Sinosauropteryx Currie & Chen 2001
?Heterodontosaurus MCZ 4188

Any other suggestions (specimens or papers), please do add them to the comments below. All help is most gratefully received.

22 Responses to “An appeal for data on dinosaur tail data”


  1. 1 Andrea Cau 20/07/2013 at 11:15 am

    Since Archaeopteryx and Anchiornis are included in the list, I assume you need also some basal avialan (or “near-avialan”, given the uncertain relationships among basal paravians): the holotypes of Aurornis (Godefroit et al. 2013b) and Eosinopteryx (Godefroit et al. 2013a) have complete tails.
    As far as I recall, the tail of Tethyshadros holotype is not complete: the distal end remained in situ, and the exact number of missing elements is unknown. I may consider it a “near complete” tail.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v498/n7454/full/nature12168.html

    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/full/ncomms2389.html

    • 2 David Hone 20/07/2013 at 11:56 am

      I’d had a look at Aurornis and wasn’t sure if it was complete or not and must ask Pascal about it, but had forgotten about Eosinopteryx – thanks for the reminder. You are right that we’re happy to look at uncertain stuff at the base on birds, but we’re not planning on going any further than that (Jeholornis, Confuscisornis etc. etc.).

      Tehyshadros is one of the ones from the first paper, and while times has passed since I assembled that set, I think I asked Fabio about it to confirm it’s completeness.

      • 3 Fabio Marco Dalla Vecchia 20/07/2013 at 3:11 pm

        No, you did not. As the tail preserves only 32 vertebrae (see Dalla Vecchia, 2009) is far from being complete.

      • 4 David Hone 20/07/2013 at 3:50 pm

        Ah I’m thinking of Preondactylus – I did ask you about that at the Beijing Flugsaurier when talking about pterosaur tails. This is clearly an error and I’ll take it out of the complete list.

  2. 5 Jordan 20/07/2013 at 1:11 pm

    I believe there was a complete Centrosaurus tail pulled out of bonebed 43 in Dinosaur Park.

    • 6 David Hone 20/07/2013 at 1:44 pm

      Any idea where it is? I did ask / look round the Tyrrell (as indeed has Scott) so if it’s there we’ve not turned it up.

      • 7 Jordan 20/07/2013 at 2:18 pm

        It would be at the Tyrrell. You might want to ask Darren Tanke about it.
        We’ve got some complete Leptoceratops tails here at the CMN in Ottawa, too.

      • 8 David Hone 20/07/2013 at 2:50 pm

        OK thanks, annoying that appears to have been missed, but that’s why I wanted to ask, thanks again. If it’s OK, I’ll mail offlist to ask about the Lepto stuff.

      • 9 Jordan 20/07/2013 at 2:53 pm

        Sounds good. Lemme know what you need.

  3. 10 Jordan 20/07/2013 at 1:26 pm

    Oh, and Chasmosaurine (Mallon, 2010) = Anchiceratops, CMN 8547

  4. 12 Squiddhartha 20/07/2013 at 5:03 pm

    Next time I’m at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I’ll ask about their Diplodocus — the tail *looks* complete but I don’t know whether it’s layperson-complete or paleontologist-complete.

    • 13 Squiddhartha 20/07/2013 at 5:30 pm

      And I apologize if this falls into your “I think I saw…” category, or if you’ve already checked it out…

      • 14 David Hone 20/07/2013 at 5:43 pm

        Not sure I have. The most likely issue is that a lot of mounted stuff has missing pieces cast from other material, or is a composite of multiple specimens. As I lament in my original paper, even in the literature things are often described as ‘complete’ but can have quite a lot missing. If you could check . ask and let me know that would be great thanks!

  5. 16 Squiddhartha 31/07/2013 at 3:40 pm

    I made it to DMNS yesterday but couldn’t find anyone to answer authoritatively; I’ll ask them via other means…

  6. 20 Dave Godfrey 27/08/2013 at 10:31 am

    One of the Hypsilophodon foxii (NHMUK R5829) on display in the NHM’s dinosaur gallery looks like it might be complete. It certainly appears to include the tip of the tail, but I don’t know if anything is missing from the middle, or how much of it is plaster reconstruction.

    NHMUK R5830 in the same case certainly isn’t complete though.

    • 21 David Hone 31/08/2013 at 9:44 pm

      Hmm, odd I’ve missed that and when I’d asked both Paul B and Susie M about this. Still, I’ll have to go have another look, thanks for the alert Dave.

      • 22 Dave Godfrey 03/09/2013 at 11:08 am

        Hmm, on second thoughts I’m not sure it is. Being a juvenile the vertebrae are really tiny, and I think there’s a joint there after all. That bit of the gallery isn’t terribly well lit either, so its easy to miss. One for the “very nearly” box it think.


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