STL Science Center

STL Science Center

03 February 2017

Skinny or Beefy Neck

© Øyvind M. Padron
The neck of Piatnitzkysaurus is of the least concern to most researchers and illustrators. However, in searching for impressive artistic interpretations today I noticed that there was an interesting range of neck morphologies depicted for this dinosaur. Ranging from extremely gracile and snake-like to highly muscular and robust, the illustrations of the neck in Piatnitzkysaurus set the tone for the remainder of the illustration. A dinosaur with a gracile neck is most often portrayed as possessing a gracile frame, hindlimbs, tail, and forelimbs. Typically these smaller necks also have lighter heads resting at their rostral ends; a giant beefy head would be difficult or impossible to support on a gracile neck. Conversely, dinosaur illustrations with extremely large necks tend to have robust and muscular bodies and heads to realistically portray proportional animals. The difference between gracile and robust is not just the overall look of the animal that is reproduced of course. Predatory dinosaurs with smaller heads and more streamlined bodies are most often portrayed as speedy smaller animals capable of stealing eggs and chasing down faster prey items. These tend to influence the dinosaur movie chase scenes that involve acrobatics and high speed escapes. Robust heads and bodies that appear stronger are more common with dinosaurs that break through walls or crush cars in movies in order to get at their prey. Hollywood, in this respect, is not entirely incorrect; nor should they be considering that paleontologists have been consulting for these kinds of movies for a long time. The difference between robust and gracile versions of Piatnitzkysaurus has not been settled and interpretations on both ends of the range are still produced. The anatomically correct version of the animal is somewhere between the two, though examples of both probably existed within the variation of the animal in its history as a genus and neither should be entirely discounted without definitive proof of a body size.
©Rodrigo Henrique Gomes

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