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May 26, 2012
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Bitter sailed sauropod of the south by ScottHartman Bitter sailed sauropod of the south by ScottHartman
Amargasaurus was named for an arroyo (and town) near where it was discovered named "La Amarga". The name means "bitter" in Spanish, and the namesake has characterized the debate as to whether the elongated neck spines supported two closely-placed sails (which would have to meet at cervical 2), or whether the upper parts were covered with a keratinous sheath (i.e. a horn-like covering).

The data is fairly equivocal, but it's worth noting that any sails would either have to have lots of skin folds, or else the neck would basically be stuck in one position, as the long spines would basically lock it in place if they were bound to each other tightly with skin.

Other than the neck spines Amargasaurus is a pretty non-descript dircraeosaurid, although the fourth trochanter on the femur is lower than I've seen on any other sauropod.

Update: Just soft-tissue updates, although this also brings a scale bar and a rigorous version, so you can see how speculative that tail really is.
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:iconjonagold2000:
JonaGold2000 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love this dinosaur!
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:iconpedrosalas:
PedroSalas Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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:iconalgoroth:
Algoroth Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
The spines are used for drying clothes. Ask Grandpa Rex!
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:iconalysataladay:
AlysaTaladay Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It would seem to me that to have enough skin to allow mobility on an animal that size, as you suggest, the neck would be also be weighed down significantly more than if they were just covered in keratin, which I would imagine (although I certainly don't claim to know anything about it) would require more muscle and energy out of the animal just to support itself. That seems a little unreasonable, although sometimes nature does things that seem unreasonable. The more we find out about dinosaurs, however, the less this seems to be the case. Is it at all possible that the keratin, if it had it, could have borne some sort of bladed or serrated formation for defense?
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:iconsfoulkes:
Sfoulkes Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2013  Professional General Artist
Scott im going to be sculpting Amargasaurus and im in a fix with this crazy neck. i have spent many hours studing this structure and im not so sure im going to restore it will the cervical spines sticking outside the skin? it seems very dangerous having neck vertibrea that is exposed and not prtected by muscle and flesh. all sauropods faced the danger of predators attacking the necks ,and to not have these parts of the skeleton pretected makes me wonder tht maybe entire structure was incased in a fleshy hump like acrocanthos neck. the neck would still be flexible but not as much so as other sauropods. the confusion is with the sharp pointed ends of these processes, it cries out for keratin covering? your thoughts?
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Hi Shane - I really struggle to see the spines totally encased in flesh - we're talking about a major restriction in neck mobility (far behond what we see in Acrocanthosaurus). I agree with the SVPOW team that the Potto is the best model: [link]

In my reconstruction you'll notice that much of the spines still play their usual role in supporting muscles and ligaments, but the thinner top portions protrude out (and I've shown them being covered by keratin sheaths). You could even go a little higher with the muscles up front if you want - I'd consider right under the top of the first spine (which is single, not paired like the others) to be the maximal extent of soft tissue.

As for it being dangerous to have neural spines exposed - the portion that is above the rest of the neck doesn't have a direct functional role, so if it were to break it would be painful but not debilitating. Keratin sheaths would reduce the chance of breakage, and perhaps more importantly pokey protrusions above the neck might help to protect the neck overall from attack, so may well actually make the animal safer.

Still, until someone looks at the histology of those neural spines we just won't know for sure, so you have some latitude here in your reconstruction. I'm looking forward to seeing the results!
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:iconrobosawrus:
robosawrus Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013
I like this one, theribcage looks more diplodocine than the reconstructed ribcage of the skeletal mount, probably more lifelike in the end.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
More than 90% of skeletal mounts screw up dinosaur ribs. All of the dinosaurs we put up during my time at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center (maybe 18 or so) had properly articulated rib cages, but after that there's only a handful of such mounts in the world I'm afraid.
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:iconzegh8578:
ZEGH8578 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013
I just realized, this is the first time I see Amargasaurus' rigorous skeletal, neato!
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, it looks to me like everyone else has just been illustrating the mount without realizing which parts were reconstructed.
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:icondeinonychusempire:
DeinonychusEmpire Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
What a f**ked up sauropod, and beautifully so.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Indeed. And thanks :)
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:iconbrolyeuphyfusion9500:
I believe that the neck spines were used to attack predators.
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:iconyoult:
yoult Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2013  Professional General Artist
A bit farfetched, isn't it?
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:iconbrolyeuphyfusion9500:
brolyeuphyfusion9500 Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2013
Yes it's a bit farfetched, but evolution can be very strange at times...
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:iconalgoroth:
Algoroth Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
Not far fetched at all, IMO. Those spines are sharp! :omg:
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:icongojira5000:
Gojira5000 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Give a paper suggesting they were used for that and w'll talk. ;)
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:iconbrolyeuphyfusion9500:
brolyeuphyfusion9500 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
It's just my opinion, the spikes could have been covered with keratin for a more active defense.
Reply
:icongojira5000:
Gojira5000 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*we'll
Reply
:icondj-miller:
DJ-miller Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
Prove. It.
Reply
:iconalgoroth:
Algoroth Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
SVPOW has an article about that possibility. I think Scott provided a link to it. Brolyeuphyfusion's theory is not, at this time, testable, but it has merit.
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:iconbrolyeuphyfusion9500:
brolyeuphyfusion9500 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
Well, if the sauropod swings it's neck at an attacker, the spikes, if covered with keratin, could do some damage.
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:iconkazuma27:
Kazuma27 Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Among the theories, i'd stick with the "defensive spikes" one, but i don't totally rule out the possibility of a sail, hump, place for tiny pterosaurs to rest, clackin' vertebrae, and so on... That's the trick with (non-avian) dinosaurs... No matter how many specimens you have, no matter how complete a certain fossil is, we'll never know how they TRULY looked like :P
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:iconihavenoagenda:
IHaveNoAgenda Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I was actually able to examine the vertebra of one of these during a visit to the Museo Emilio Feruglio. Later, I tried to draw out the body of the animal, but I never managed to get the neck right. Kudos.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks!
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:iconweavrrcat:
Weavrrcat Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Oh my finally a good looking skeletal of this sauropod. <3 I'm of the spine-rattling camp and with your reconstruction I can picture it much more easily. Yay! Amargasaurus is just one of those endearing dinosaurs that I have really grown to like over the years.

Although, if it did had a sail and lots of skin folds... I could picture it flushing those folds to be some bright color and hiding it's head to show off to a potential mate or even the skin could have 'eye' on it to confuse a predator. Oh gosh.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Funny, I actually tried to convince a dinosaur documentary to do a similar thing with an Amargasaurus sail, giving it pleats that when extended were much more brightly colored than when the neck was in neutral position. It would be good for display and to try and startle predators.

Alas, they lacked the budget to do that sort of cloth-type simulation, so the sequence was cut.
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:icontyrannosaurusprime:
TyrannosaurusPrime Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2012
Just asking, which dinosaur documentary are you talking about?:confused: Is it Dinosaur Revolution or another show that hasn't been released yet?:?
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Neither, it was for an early discussion of Dinosaur Fight Club (before it was DFC - they were developing several different concepts originally).
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:icontyrannosaurusprime:
TyrannosaurusPrime Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2012
When you said "Dinosaur Fight Club", did you mean Jurassic Fight Club?:)
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Er yeah, that's what I meant. It's been a while.
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:icontyrannosaurusprime:
TyrannosaurusPrime Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2012
Ok.:) I see.:) BTW a pair of turtles have been found mating during their time of death in the Messel Pits: [link] (talk about being caught in the act LOL :XD:)
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:iconweavrrcat:
Weavrrcat Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Mr. Hartman, that would have been so neat to see! Well darn. Someone needs to illustrate this. Or build an moving model. I can already picture this now and well, dang it. I should go out and buy more materials so that I may paint this.

Budgets... the ruinous means of shooting down great ideas.
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:iconjulio-lacerda:
Julio-Lacerda Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I thought the latest theory in town was that the neck was covered in skin and muscle, looking more like a hump? Like so: [link]
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're determined to get my whole explanation, aren't you?

Covering the entirety of the spines in muscle and skin is indeed one of (more recently) suggested explanations, and while I find it more likely than a sail for developmental reasons, I still find it less likely that spines for the same reason - mobility. It's certainly not impossible, but an Amargasaurus with a neck like the one in your link is going to have very limited vertical mobility to the neck. Which could honestly be the case, I just find it less convincing.

I should note, however, that I already restore the neck muscles of my sauropods quite differently from Greg Paul and others, with quite a bit more tissue depth on top. As a result my restoration is sort of a hybrid between the original "naked spines" version and a muscle and skin humped version, and the exposed spines are therefore quite a bit smaller (even though the length of the bone hasn't changed).

The result is a neck that is fairly normal for a sauropod, except for the spines. I find it most likely that they were used for display and defense, much like the African Potto: [link]

But again, this is simply a "best inference with the evidence at hand" situation; what's really needed is for someone to spend more quality time with the spines looking at the surface texture and morphology in greater detail (possibly doing histological work too if the museum could be convinced).
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:iconjulio-lacerda:
Julio-Lacerda Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, I absolutely agree about lack of mobility. I think the mixed version seems the more likely to me, with a relatively deep neck (perhaps brightly coloured) and exposed spines, though not as exposed as in many reconstructions. I personally don't find the possibility of a sail between the spines very likely, but that's just me.

Also, thanks for the link. Didn't know about the Potto.
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:icondinosaurusbrazil:
dinosaurusbrazil Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
In your opinion, what was the function of spines on the neck of these sauropods?
I think they were used as sexual display...
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I think sexual display is a very likely explanation. I'm sure they also served as at least passive predator deterrence (don't bite the pokey end!) and if they were strengthened with keratin sheathes they could have also served as more active defense in a pinch.

Greg Paul once speculated (I think it was in a Dinosaur Society bulletin in the 1990s?) that they could have even created an auditory display by clacking the horny sheaths against one another as they moved their necks - while that's obviously not testable, I have to say that the idea of an Amargasaurus clacking its neck spines to impress a mate or drive away a challenger is one of the more novel and evocative ideas I've read to date.
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:icondinosaurusbrazil:
dinosaurusbrazil Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
In fact, clak the vertebrae seems to be quite interesting, however, I read a case in which small pterosaurus spent part of their lives between the vertebrae of Amargasaurus, something I believe is plausible, however, it would be very strange. It would be an extremely symbiotic relationship.
I'm more in favor of the idea of using the vertebrae as a sexual display.
Reply
:iconeriorguez:
Eriorguez Featured By Owner May 26, 2012
I'd say sharpening and elongating the cervical neural spines is a quite good defense mechanism, IIRC some Lorisiformes also have this. However, comparing small, primitive primates to a freaking (small, primitive compared to Titanosaurs) sauropod, well...
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
The Potto does, not sure about any other ones.
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:icondeinonychusempire:
DeinonychusEmpire Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've never given it serious thought as to whether those spines were covered in skin or keratin (or something ELSE). But in my opinion keratinous spikes makes the most sense.
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:iconsupergoji18:
supergoji18 Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
i see some possibility for it to have a sail on its neck. The shape of the spines sort of has a sail-like shape to it.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
A lot of people see the possibility, but like TyrPrime below I fall on the side of spines, albeit not with any really strong convictions - I'd feel much better if I could take a look at the spines in person.
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:iconsupergoji18:
supergoji18 Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
spines would be better for defensive purposes, though the sail would make it look HUGE. It could be either.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Or above, wherever the DA comments section puts him... :P
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:icontyrannosaurusprime:
TyrannosaurusPrime Featured By Owner May 26, 2012
I doubt so, that would restrict neck mobility. IMO keratinous spikes to deter predators makes more sense.;)
Reply
:iconsupergoji18:
supergoji18 Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
it could have been used to make it look HUGE to scare off predators, but spikes would be more effective. Either one could be possible.
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:icontyrannosaurusprime:
TyrannosaurusPrime Featured By Owner May 27, 2012
Spines would help prevent predators from biting the neck though ;)
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:iconsupergoji18:
supergoji18 Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
yeah.
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