Monday, June 6, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Return of the Dinosaurier Trading Cards!

In an April Vintage Dinosaur Art post, I featured a selection of cards from the Dinosaurier trading card set, manufactured in the early nineties by German company Altenburger Speilkarten and shared with me by reader Olliver Krone. Today, we return to the set as promised, this time to look at the sauropods.

In following with the trend we saw in the theropods in the last post, these sauropods are of a distinctly reptilian nature. This isn't to the same bizarre extent of the Velociraptor, who could double as Wally Gator if it wore a hat and tie. But each of these still has a certain lizardy character, especially in the design of their heads and the texture of their scaly hides. Though they're hard to see, the eyes seem to be of the slit pupil persuasion.

It's most evident in their Camarasaurus, which seems to have the head of a monitor lizard. Especially odd is the bump on the top of the snout. This may be a gaffe on the part of the uncredited artist, who may have thought that the enlarged nasal openings characteristic of macronarian sauropods were further forward on the head. An odd mistake for such a well-known sauropod, and it effectively makes this illustration unrecognizable as Camarasaurus.
camarasaurus

On another famous macronarian, Brachiosaurus, the artist fared better. However, it nicely demonstrates a commonly botched aspect of sauropod anatomy: the hands. A classic post from Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology covers this in depth, and he says that when consulting on dinosaur pop-sci books, "every single artist whose work I've had to check has screwed up on these."

brachiosaurus

The same mistake Naish sees over and over again is repeated here; the hands and feet are illustrated as being basically the same. In reality, the hands and feet of sauropods were completely different. Dr. Matt Bonnan, a paleontologist with a keen interest in the hands and feet of sauropods, wrote last year on his blog Jurassic Journeys,
"...the hand of sauropods is essentially a nearly fingerless block, sometimes with one good thumb claw, made up mostly out of the five bones in the palm of the hand (the metacarpals), arranged like the columns in a Roman or Greek temple. No elephant or any other heavy vertebrate that I’d ever seen had that. And then the feet: toes with banana-shaped claws, splayed out, and flat-footed, not at all like the fore-feet (hands)."
These poor sauropods, like so many other noble failures in dinosaur books, have two pairs of hind limbs!

The other two sauropods present are famous diplodocoids, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. Diplodocus gleefully attacks a palm tree with its snake-like gape.
diplodocus

Apatosaurus has a snakey look to it, too. When I saw the card, I got a little excited by what I thought was a rare desert scene. Then I saw the two apatosaurs in the background, and unless the poor beasts are half-buried in sand, this is just a typical lake-side illustration, rendered in the warm colors of sunset.

apatosaurus

I'll come back to this collection in the future to show some of the other featured dinosaurs. The whole collection is in a set at my Flickr photostream, as well as being part of the Flickr Vintage Dinosaur Art pool. Thanks again to Olliver for sharing them with me.

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