STL Science Center

STL Science Center

27 January 2017

Seeing the Little Giant

Neuquensaurus was, without any doubts, a small sauropod dinosaur but still dwarfed the average human being. The height of the animal may not relay that fact and a flat two dimensional image does not really prepare us for the human to dinosaur weight comparison of this animal, but when we consider that the dinosaur was approximately 8 m long we can assume that its abdomen was much larger than a human being and its weight (which I have found no estimates for) was considerable.

This is still a visibly small sauropod when compared to other titanosaurs; it makes one wonder why this was considered to be a member of Titanosaurus but it may have been considered a juvenile at one point or another. That is not the point today, of course, the topic for Friday is fantastic art that shows the dinosaur of the week in a dramatic or dynamic pose where we can really appreciate the history of the fossil and the work that has gone into not only describing the animal but also its environment. The best image available for Neuquensaurus is dynamic image that does not show the environment as much, but does give us a glimpse of contemporary predator relationships and the sleekness of this small sauropod. Possibly more agile than its larger cousins, Neuquensaurus was likely capable of rearing back, much like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus are often shown doing in documentaries, movies, and illustration; however, this dinosaur is doing nothing of the sort. Instead, it is defending its young from an Abelisaurus simply using its size and ability to stay between the predator and the immature animal. The brachiosaurid cranium is a slightly bewildering detail given the dinosaur's close relationship with Saltasaurus which possesses a much more ovate cranium (in typical illustrations), but we can overlook this aspect and leave it under the idea of artist interpretation. The osteoderms on the back of the animal are clearly modeled after those shown regularly on Saltasaurus and, assuming the close relationship between the two animals was reflected in this skin armor, its resemblance to the other animal's morphology is nicely placed and looks quite natural.
©Martin Chavez

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