STL Science Center

STL Science Center

05 January 2016

Rebuilding the Skull

The famous Cretaceous sauropod of China Euhelopus was fossilized with a  nearly complete cranium. Because the fossil was discovered so early in the history of documented Chinese paleontology, the description of the fossil material other than that complete cranium, was well done, but not up to the same standards as today. In part that is, as it always is with science, because of the advances in technology that allowed current researchers to look at the skeleton with more advanced optics, imaging, and better techniques. The original description was well done for certain, but the newer description and reevaluation of Euhelopus by Wilson and Upchurch is thorough and well written. This new description definitely reveals more details about the dinosaur than the original and officially places Euhelopus in Titanisauriformes; this classification was not described or valid until 1997. This redescription and a subsequent study were used to make the hypothesis, which is upheld in this 2010 Christian paper, that Euhelopus was capable of high browsing and raising its neck higher into foliage. The paper makes cases for other sauropods as well, but these have not been as well received as the evidence and argument for Euhelopus. Possibly the most intriguing, and colorful, study was also the "simplest" study that has been published about Euhelopus. The Poropat and Kear study digitally reconstructed the disarticulated cranium of Euhelopus for the first time. The nearly complete skull was color coded by bone and makes a wonderful learning tool for anatomy of sauropods. The cranium of the sauropod is amazing. It really is worth all of the hype that has been attributed to it.

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