:: OSEL.CZ :: – Mysterious giant from Tendagur

An impressive exhibit of the species Giraffatitan brancai towers over visitors to Berlin Museum of Natural Science. The skull of this skeletal replica, composed of fossil parts of several individuals, is located at a height of thirteen meters. So far, the mysterious “Archbishop” was about one-seventh smaller, according to new findings. Credit: Vladimir Socha (own picture, June 20, 2010).

The world of dinosaur paleontology, like many other disciplines, has its own long-standing mysteries and legends that spark the imagination of many generations of scientists and the general public with an interest in dinosaur issues. One such legend, whose brightness has diminished significantly in recent years, is also the supposed gigantic sauropod from the famous Tanzanian locality of Tendaguru. Geological formation of the same name, famous especially German excavations in the period before the First World War, offers many fossil treasures, especially from the late Jurassic period (about 150 million years ago).[1] At the time, the East African region was part of lush tropical ecosystems with rivers and a giant delta, in which the bodies of thousands of dinosaurs were buried, often drowned in rivers or their vicinity.[2] Among the more than 250 tons of fossils collected were fossils giant brachiosaurid sauropods, especially of the species Giraffatitan brancai (until 2009 known as white brachiosaurus).[3] This colossal sauropod reached a length of over 22 meters, a height of about 13 meters and a weight of between 30 and 40 tons.[4] About the approximate size of its internal organs I have written in a separate article before, let’s just remind you that, for example, the heart of this brachiosaurida weighed about 200 kilograms, the skin would weigh about 2.1 tons, the skeleton about 5.5 tons and the dinosaur muscle itself even about 17 tons![5] It was therefore a huge, though far from the largest known dinosaur (these were giant South American titanosaurs weighing up to three times as much).[6] Giraffatitan but it is far from the only sauropod “ace” that this East African site has in its imaginary sleeve. In the interwar period, when the Germans lost this former colony (German East Africa) after the lost war, the British went to Tanzania, who continued their excavations somewhat less successfully. The most interesting finds were mostly picked up by the Germans and the British had to settle for a somewhat poorer fossil share.

Size comparison of adult and Giraffatitan brancai species.  Although at 30 to 40 tons of live weight, it was far from the largest and most massive sauropod dinosaur, its dimensions were still astounding.  For example, he would look comfortably at the windows of the fourth floor of the panel period.  Credit: Matt Martyniuk;  Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)

Size comparison of adult and species Giraffatitan brancai. Although at 30 to 40 tons of live weight, it was far from the largest and most massive sauropod dinosaur, its dimensions were still astounding. For example, he would look comfortably at the windows of the fourth floor of the panel period. Credit: Matt Martyniuk; Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)

Nevertheless, the British made a number of interesting discoveries here, such as the 15-centimeter-long teeth of a giant theropod, long known as Ceratosaurus huge (apparently it was actually carcharodontosauride or megalosauride).[7] Then there were the vertebrae and other fossil bones of the unknown giant brachiosaurida, which was supposed to be up to half the composite skeleton of the species Giraffatitan brancai, assembled in Berlin! If such a sauropod did exist, it would measure about 33 meters in length, about 18 meters in height, and its weight could reach 80 or even 100 tons.

A native of present-day Tanzania, viewing the fossil bones of giant late Jurassic sauropods a century ago.  Before the arrival of European scientists, legends were spread in the area around Tendagur about giant underground cannibals, catching poor mortals in their bony hands like cages and then pulling them underground.  Is it just a coincidence that some of the local bones of the sauropod's limbs resemble giant finger joints?  Credit: Vladimír Rimbala, from the author's book Dinosaurs in Bohemia (Vyšehrad publishing house, 2017).
A native of present-day Tanzania, viewing the fossil bones of giant late Jurassic sauropods a century ago. Before the arrival of European scientists, legends were spread in the area around Tendagur about giant underground cannibals, catching poor mortals in their bony hands like cages and then pulling them underground. Is it just a coincidence that some of the local bones of the sauropod’s limbs resemble giant finger joints? Credit: Vladimir Rimbala, from the author’s book Dinosaurs in Bohemia (Vyšehrad publishing house, 2017).

So it would be one of the tallest and heaviest known dinosaurs ever. About the discovery of these legendary fossils For example, the recently deceased Jaroslav Mareš wrote engagingly in his book The mystery of dinosaurs 1993. On page 61, in the chapter “The World Takes the Relay,” he describes the discoveries of British expeditions led by Messrs. Cutler, Migeod, and Parkinson, and asks, “Is this really a giant brachiosaurus or other related species? The answer is the same as in the previous case (meaning Ceratosaurus huge This mysterious giant is a hitherto undescribed species of brachiosaurida, which the British paleontologist Michal P. Taylor and his American colleague Matthew Wedel call the “Archbishop” (“Archbishop”). The reason for this strange nickname for the fossil with the designation NHMUK PV R5937 It is a simple fact that both scientists wanted to come up with a fun label that will not be as dry as many scientific names. In any case, the late Jurassic “Archbishop”, which I discussed five years ago in a separate article, was supposed to be the giant surpassing even the largest North American titanosauriform sauropods (as he was Sauroposeidon proteles or alleged record holder Ultrasauros macintoshi).[8] But sauropod expert Mike Taylor himself made a definitive halt to similar ideas when the fossil material excavated in Tendagur under the leadership of Frank Migeod in the 1920s, began to examine and measure in detail. The result of his work is a great disappointment for all lovers of dinosaur records.

Even with the use of the original field notes and data on the size of individual parts of the skeleton (vertebrae, ribs, pelvic bones and limb bones), he clearly proved that the brachiosauride, which has not yet been formally described, closely related to genera Giraffatitan i Brachiosaurus, was not bigger at all. What’s more, he was actually smaller in knowledge! For a better idea, a few basic data published recently on the web will suffice SVPOW. Neck of the Berlin specimen (but composed of fossils of several individuals) measures a length of about 8.78 meters, while the preserved part of the neck of the “archbishop” is 6.10 meters long, in the complete state it would not be longer than the neck part of the spine in the genus Giraffatitan. The length of the torso, including the cruciate part of the spine, is for the species G. Brancai 499 cm, while in the undescribed sauropod “only” 457 cm (difference about 8%). The scapulocoracoid (essentially a scapula) of the Berlin specimen has an impressive length of 238 cm, even with a curvature around the circumference, while in the case of the “archbishop” the length of the same part of the skeleton is 221 cm. Similarly the longest rib is 263 cm long at the first mentioned, while in the second “only” 235 cm. The biggest difference is in the length of the femur, which in the case of a giraffatitan (as we can honor the genus name of a dinosaur with a little tolerance) is 196 cm, while in the case of the “Archbishop” only 122 cm.[9] In most cases, the individual skeletal parts are in the species G. Brancai about 1 to 25% larger, only in two cases (the length of the right humerus and femur) the difference is even more than 30%, namely about 31.5% and 37.8%, respectively. Conversely, in the case of the length of the body of the 11th cervical vertebra, in one case the bone of the “Archbishop” is larger, by 4%. On average, this hitherto undescribed brachiosauride from Tendagur is about 15% smaller than the exposed composite skeleton of the species Giraffatitan brancai. This would mean a length of about 19 meters, a height of up to 11 meters and a weight of about 20 to 25 tons. Definitely a giant animal, but it’s not really a real dinosaur legend anymore. Although, who knows? Maybe there is another big surprise still hidden under the arid, heat-cracked soil of Tendagur – literally!

Written for Dinosaurusblog and OSEL.

Short Summary in English: “Archbishop” was a giant brachiosaurid sauropod living in what is now Tanzania during the Late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. As paleontologist Michael P. Taylor recently demonstrated, it was in fact smaller than the mounted specimen of Giraffatitan brancai in Berlin.

Links:

https://svpow.com/2021/06/02/how-big-was-the-archbishop/

https://svpow.com/2018/05/28/work-on-the-archbishop-begins/

https://svpow.com/2010/10/15/the-archbishop-restored/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giraffatitan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendaguru_Formation

[1] Bussert, R .; et al. (2009). The Tendaguru Formation (Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, southern Tanzania): definition, palaeoenvironments, and sequence stratigraphy. Fossil Record. 12: 141–174.

[2] Aberhan, M.; et al. (2002). Palaeoecology and depositional environments of the Tendaguru Beds (Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, Tanzania). Fossil Record. 5: 19–44.

[3] Taylor, M. P. (2009). A Re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1903 (Dinosauria, Sauropod) and its generic separation from Giraffatitan brancai (Janensch 1914) (PDF). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 29 (3): 787–806. doi: 10.1671/039.029.0309

[4] Paul, G. S. (2016). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (Second Edition). Princeton University Press, str. 227.

[5] Gunga, H.-C.; et al. (2008). A new body mass estimation of white brachiosaurus Janensch, 1914 mounted and exhibited at the Museum of Natural History (Berlin, Germany). Fossil Record. 11 (1): 33–38. doi: 10.1002/mmng.200700011

[6] González Riga, B. J.; et al. (2016). A gigantic new dinosaur from Argentina and the evolution of the sauropod hind foot. Scientific Reports. 6: 19165. doi: 10.1038/srep19165

[7] Carrano, M. T.; et al. (2012). The phylogeny of Tetanurae (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 10 (2): 211–300. doi: 10.1080/14772019.2011.630927

[8] Wedel, M. J.; et al. (2000). Osteology, paleobiology, and relationships of the sauropod dinosaur Sauroposeidon. (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 45: 343–388. S2CID 59141243

[9] Janensch, W. (1950). The spine of white brachiosaurus. Palaeontographica. Supplement 7: 27–93.

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