...my barbaric YAWP...
                                                                   "Song of Myself" Leaves of Grass
                                                Walt Whitman  
Barosaurus lentus vs. Allosaurus fragilis 
[mother Barosaurus rears up in defense! juvenile in silhouette in lower left]
Barosaurus vs. Allosaurus    AMNH 1996
[Allosaurus lower left attempts attack with mother Barosaurus in defense!]
Barosaurus vs. Allosaurus    AMNH 1996
[Allosaurus in foreground mother Barosaurus rears up in defense!]
Barosaurus vs. Allosaurus    AMNH 1996

July 1996: Exiting Central Park, my pulse quickened when I saw, across the street, the marble pedestal and impressive bronze of a mounted Theodore Roosevelt and Indian at his side; That's the American Museum of Natural History's frontdoor! I had only paid one quick visit to the museum in the last dozen years. Back in '73, when I lived near Washington Square, I'd visit up to ten times in a month. It would take months to properly look at every thing on display. Wonderful, marvelous items are everywhere. I knew the museum had just under gone major renovation of the dinosaur halls, so I bounded up the front steps into the Roosevelt Memorial Hall.

The Roosevelt Memorial Hall was designed by the same architect who did the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art

in Washington,D.C., John Russell Pope. The room is enormous. The vaulted ceiling reminds me of Hadrian's Pantheon in Rome, more ornate, with the alternating large and small rosettes framed with octogons and squares, rather than Hadrian's simple squares. Rusty rose marble Corinthian columns, earthy toned murals, big bronze doors, and large arched windows are the perfect backdrop to what is probably the most magnificent frontdoor display of any museum.

In the middle of the Roosevelt Memorial Hall stands an adult rearing 80 foot long (27 meter) sauropod Barosaurus lentus with a smaller juvenile sheltering behind while a menacing Allosaurus dashes around mouth agape. Stupendous!

This wonderful display is just prelude to countless other treasures beyond.


Barosaurus means heavy lizard, and was first described by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1890. It is a plant eating sauropod - a "long-neck", capable of growing 75-90 feet (23-27 meters). The specimen the cast was based on, was collected by Earl Douglass and his crews between 1912 and 1914, from Utah (AMNH-6341 Dinosaur National Monument, Utah). It seemed to be another Diplodocus sauropod by the crew and not the scarce Barosaurus it was. Several museums were missing parts for their mounts so a tail section went to Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum, a section of neck to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., with the rest going to the University of Utah.

It took Barnum Brown, one of the premier AMNH dinohunters, to bring the specimen to New York and not in his usual way of digging it up from the ground. In 1929, Brown realized the seperate specimens were Barosaurus and not Diplodocus. Wheeling and dealing, with cash, a three-toed horse, and Albertosaurus, he managed to unite the specimens.

The sediments the fossils were found in date to the late Jurassic, about 140 million years ago. Other diplodocids Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, and the Chinese Mamenchisaurus existed around this time as well as the other large sauropods, Brachiosaurus, and Camarasaurus. It was not a good time to be a tree!

The ability of such a large animal to rise up as represented by this display is not without controversy. Many scientists say, "Impossible!", others suggest "Maybe." Of the sauropods, it's a good candidate for being able to. The neck bones are hightly sculpted with air spaces, or pleurocoels, like a truss framework for strength with minimal weight. Its center of gravity seems to be near the hips. The dorsal vertebral spines are elongate, allowing the attachment for muscles and connective tissue, needed for rearing up. Its small brain may not have needed constant blood supply for minutes at a time. The araucarian trees of the time (similar to modern monkey puzzle and Norfolk Island pine trees) would lose their lower branches as they grew tall, concentrating new growth high above the ground. Rearing up may have meant being able to exploit this growth of vegetation.


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Dinosaurs & 
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All images ©Michael Patrick Corriss
July 29,2001

Images photographed with Olympus OM-1 35-mm camera, Olympus KHC microscope,
Ricoh RDC-300Z digital camera, scanned by Nikon LS-2000 and
manipulated with PhotoShopLE.
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