STL Science Center

STL Science Center

28 December 2012

You're Gonna Want A Bigger Boat

Had this week's dinosaur been one of those at Jurassic Park, or the second island where, in The Lost World, dinosaurs were being captured to be part of an attraction in California, they would have needed an enormous boat for this dinosaur. Our guest this week is quite possibly the longest dinosaur and a contender for the heaviest dinosaur ever, the genus Amphicoelias; composed of two species A. altus and A. fragilimus.
Courtesy of Matt Marytniuk via Wikipedia
 As with many dinosaurs this week's guest is somewhat of a mystery tale as well as a super sized dinosaur. Many, even dinosaur enthusiasts, may not have ever heard of Amphicoelias.Some sources report it as a real find, others as a hoax, and some others as a myth of paleontology. The fact is that a paper was published and a description presented by E.D. Cope in 1878 after being discovered by Oramel Lucas in 1877. Cope may have famously blundered in his past, but I have yet to see proof that he ever outwardly lied for attention. The problem with proving that he saw what he saw and drew what he drew from a real vertebra and femur is that no one can find the bones! There are a number of theories about where those bones may have gone ranging from lost in collections (this has happened in the past and, in fact, one skull split in two pieces by poor collecting was thought to be half lost until it turned up that the pieces were in different European museums in different countries) to the idea that the bone was simply too fragile and crumbled while being figured and inspected by Cope. The second idea explains why we only have one view drawn of the vertebra; Cope was very good at drawing multiple views of a specimen. Regardless, the proportions reported by Cope of the partial vertebra and femur indicate an animal with a complete vertebra that would have been approximately 8 feet tall standing on end. The amount of sediment required to preserve a single bone would have been monstrous let alone the entire animal! Whatever happened to them many paleontologists have regarded Cope's figures and descriptions as true citing the use of them by H.F. Osborn and others as well as the lack of a rebuttal by Cope's rival O.C. Marsh (Marsh's spies probably reported what Lucas was digging out of the mudstone for Cope, meaning that Marsh knew the size of the bones to be true) as facts for Cope's assertions about the bones.

No comments:

Post a Comment