An unintentional, plateosaurid Christmas present

Someone unintentionally gave me a Christmas present, and it has Plateosaurus in it – what more can I ever want?

Right manus (hand) of Plateosaurus sp. ‘Fund 14′ made by R. Seemann’s excavation crew in Trossingen, June 11 through 27, 1932. Catalog number SMNS 91297. Stolen from Fig. 9 G in Schoch, R.R. 2011.

There is a new paper out in Palaeodiversity (previously Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde Serie B – oh mindless conformity to the English speaking world, you are ruining all the journal titles!), a paper by Rainer Schoch, curator for amphibians, reptiles, birds (Palaeozoic, Mesozoic) at the SMNS (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart [future: Palaeodiversity Museum Stuttgart??????]). Rainer is a quiet fellow I like very much, he is smart, industrious, and thorough in his work. He was the mastermind and one of the workhorses behind the SMNS’s huge Landesausstellung “Saurier – Erfolgsmodelle der Evolution” (State Exhibition “Saurians – success story of evolution”) in 2007. And now he wrote a paper on the third big excavation at the famous Plateosaurus (and Proganochelys) site at Trossingen.

Here’s the abstract:

Abstract - The field notes of Reinhold Seemann, who conducted the 1932 dinosaur excavation at Trossingen, are published for the first time. An English translation of the whole text is also provided. Quarry maps and stratigraphic sections were redrawn and compared with new data gathered in ongoing excavations. Of the 65 finds listed by Seemann, only 21 have survived the Second World War (Plateosaurus: 18, Proganochelys: 3). This includes most of the well-preserved skeletons, which had been moved to safe places during the war. An overview of these finds and their present state is given for the first time. This reveals major differences in preservation of bones, and it adds to the knowledge of bone completeness classes at Trossingen. The missing finds were probably destroyed by fire in 1944, and there are no remains from these specimens left. In combination with the field notes and sketches, the new data on Seemann’s material may serve as a platform for future studies of and excavations at the Trossingen lagerstaette.

and the paper is as good as the abstract promises: the complete diary (as well transcribed as possible, and Rainer Schoch had to leave very few question marks), in German and in an excellent English translation, a thorough and detailed list of the material with both find number and current SMNS catalog number, plus info on whether the material still exists, very high quality figures (see above) of some the material, as well as quarry views etc. I could go on for whole paragraphs!

This is, to be honest, not a paper a scientist likes writing. After all, where is the genius idea of his that he presents for the first time? Where is the hard-won data that supports it? Instead of that, all Rainer got was the laborious task of deciphering old handwritten notebooks, then translating them, sifting through dusty boxed full of half-prepared bones that nobody had looked at in ages, trying to sort it all out…… a time-consuming and un-glamorous task to say the least. Add to that the physical pain a palaeontologist will feel whenever the list of material destroyed or lost gets longer….. I experienced that with the Kentrosaurus material, where I gave up making a “what was found” list and restricted myself to a “what’s still there” one. Luckily, Rainer reports:

“Therefore, it can be stated that from the suite of SEEMANN’s finds at Trossingen, the scientifically most valuable material is still available.”

Lucky us! All in all very useful and helpful stuff, and excellent figures. Rainer deserves a heartfelt thanks:

Rainer, thank you very much!

Now I’ll shut up and go read the paper again. Rainer says that Seemann’s lost Fund 1 was the best Plateosaurus (see Rainer’s Fig. 5B). Personally, I disagree. There were other cool finds, including GPIT/RE/7288 (see header). My personal favorite is Fund 33 (SMNS 58958). Here it is (again), in all its glory:

This headless and tailless specimen can teach us so much about taphonomy and the in vivo articulation, it beats any headed and tailed but torn-apart specimen to hell and back.

References

Schoch, R. R. 2011. Tracing Seemann’s dinosaur excavation in the Upper Triassic of Trossingen: his field notes and the present status of the material. Palaeodiversity 4: 245–282. (link to free PDF)


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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in "Prosauropoda", Dinosauria, papers, Plateosaurus, Sauropodomorpha, SMNS. Bookmark the permalink.

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