STL Science Center

STL Science Center

21 April 2012

The Old and The New

Those of you who read Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs ought to love this first picture. Vintage art may be quite incorrect, but who can argue with its quality for the time and place in which it was originally created? Obviously living in the current general consensus that we live in on body shape and the way that shape is held, this Tuojiangosaurus looks horrendous with its identical size fore and hind legs and the overall lazy bell curve shape of the spine and body. However, at the time in which this image was painted this was a fantastic work of art showing a majestic dinosaur foraging, or looking about anyhow, in a dense forest, nevermind that an animal that size probably wouldn't be able to waddle itself into the dense forest, and that is wonderful enough to overlook some of the anatomical problems that this animals is facing, like being called a Tuojiangosaurus when it has Kentrosaurus shoulder spikes. This will also be a problem later on.

©Scott Hartman
The type specimen of Tuojiangosaurus, as noted yesterday, is well over half completed. For any dinosaur that is fairly astounding. In this dinosaur it gives us a way to refute the vintage art straightaway. Obviously, first and foremost, there is no gigantic shoulder spike jutting out from the fore limbs of this animal. Neither in Hartman's wonderfully detailed schematics nor in any museum in the world does Tuojiangosaurus have enormous shoulder spikes. The body in the modern pose is quite elegant and has an energy to it. The lack of ossified tendons in the tail, again, show a flexibility of the tail to move side to side with a narrower window of vertical motion. While the type specimen was not found with its tail spikes they are known from the composite of other specimens just as the front paws and the continuation of the ribs are known. This is the dinosaur the museums of the world will show you.

Pixeldust and Renegade 9 studios for Nat. Geographic
This, unfortunately, is what the mass media is showing the public. As I promised, the shoulder spikes show up again here. This model was created, in a correct modern pose, for National Geographic's magazine/website/documentary on bizarre dinosaurs back in 2007. Bizarre it is, correct it is not. Therefore, anyone that knows this dinosaur from National Geographic might very well go to the museum and expect to see a Tuojiangosaurus with radical spikes on its shoulders defending itself from Monolophosaurus, this is obviously not going to be the case. Does misrepresentation by the media make dinosaurs more popular or less popular once people find out that what they have come to love is all fake? It's a very interesting question to be sure and one that I certainly do not have the data to interpret at this time, though I am sure that we could find the data if we wanted, after all there is a poll for everything in the world these days.

So what should Tuojiangosaurus look like all fleshed out then? That becomes are most important question considering the misinformation that is floating around and the vintage art which surfaces now and again. What should the public be looking for when they imagine the small brained not-so-gentle-giant Chinese stegosaurid? The honest answer is that they should expect to see a fairly typical stegosaurid dinosaur but with thinner, front to back, boney plates than the namesake Stegosaurus with four spikes arranged in pairs on the end of the tail. Its head is held in a middling position with its longer hind legs lifting the tail back and up over the hips behind it. The lower front legs make a wonderful springing base of energy around which the Tuojiangosaurus could shift its weight using those tall hind legs as a fulcrum with which to whip about the tail whenever the front end sprung suddenly from one position to another allowing momentum to add great amounts of energy to the tail and delivering all of that energy in a small area at the end of each keratin sheathed boney mass of tail spike. That is Tuojiangosaurus.
©Paul Heaston
Uses Gregory Paul as a model, coloring not done by Heaston as far as I can tell.

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