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Dinosaurs in Art: Did Sauropods Have Ears, Trunks, Horns, Crests? We Put Our Heads Together On This One. ...Page 40

sauropod sauropod sauropod sauropod

Above from left to Right:(1)Lisbon, Portugal. 1825 to 1850. (2)From the Vietnamese Bronze Age: 3rd century A.D. Cast bronze. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Dongson culture.
(3)Bronze Ladle with "dragon head" handle. Han dynasty(220 B.C. to approx 220 A.D... Chinaweb (4)Acambaro Mexico. Carbon dated to 1,500 to 4,000 years old.

Are you among those who have accepted the notion that even though dragons were often dangerous, very large, scaly reptiles with crests, horns, sometimes wings, and armor-and; dinosaurs were often dangerous, very large, scaly reptiles with crests, horns, sometimes wings, and armor- that nevertheless, one had nothing to do with the other? If so, that's amazing. But perhaps you believe that the world popped into existence from nothing as well.

Fig 1. This a Mesopotamiun cylinder seal,
approximately 5,300 years old.
Click and drag photo to resize.

One of the oldest dinosaur representations we have in this section is the Mesopotamium cylinder seal dated at 33 centuries before Christ. That would put it at 5,300 years old. There can be little doubt that the body is that of a sauropod--but what of the head?

Fig1. Close-up of head. 5,300 Years Old. Mesopotamium cylinder seal.
Fig 2. 3,300 Years Old. Shang Dynasty Bronze.
Zhou Dynasty. 1100 - 256 B.C. Bronze
Khmer period. est. 11th Century. Wood cane.
Fig. 3. Ming Dynasty. 1368, -- 1644 A.D
Fig. 4. Ming Dynasty sauropod. 1368, -- 1644 A.D
Bohemia. Title Cup Finial. Early 17th century.
Northern Wei Dynasty-386-534 A.D.
Gilt Bronze Dragon Head Eighth-ninth century, A. D. Kyongiu National Museum
1,500 -4000 years old. (carbon dating) Acambaro, Mexico.
Chinese 2nd century BC Western Han Dynasty Bronze Spoon.

Back on the second page of this section, where we first introduced the seal, we thought maybe it was an accurate rendering of the head--but that maybe it had been "stylized". But something kept happening over time--we found more long necked sauropod dinosaurs in art-with a similar head. The problem for us was; if they didn't look like an identifiable dinosaur type, we couldn't use them for our purposes (finding known dinosaurs in art)-and we'd likely move on.

Finally, we came across a sauropod representation from China, which was crafted from bronze some 2000 years after the Mesopotamium sauropod, (making it approximately 3,000 years old)and there could be no question that they were of the same animal.

We'd characterize the shape as "dog headed". Ears, sometimes floppy like that on the cylinder seal; a long prominent nose--a "foldable" nose, with perhaps a small beard.

Fig 2. Shang Dynasty period. The great bronze age of China.
(1600-1100 BC) Excellent bronze artwork (13th century BC)
Shanghai National Museum. Click and drag photo to resize.

Not all of the sauropods looked that way, but some of those who did look a bit more like the common sauropod drawings of today--but different at the same time had features that made them look like each other even though they were often thousands of years apart and from a different culture altogether.

Of course, as has been pointed out on prior pages, no one knows exactly what dinosaurs-and sauropods specifically, looked like. No one living today that is. We suppose that the look of the sauropods varied by region, type, whether it was male or female, young or old. They probably varied much the same way from each other as dogs do today.

No one is quite sure today exactly what the sauropod nose looked like. Some wonder whether that had noses similar to elephants because of indications of a proboscis from some skulls.

Recently, they changed the placement of the sauropod nostril on scientific drawings of the animal in a way that to us is consistent with many of the animals portrayed in ancient art.

Did sauropods have external ears? Science is not sure.

We just thought that it might be interesting to take a look at some of the sauropods we've collected to answer a few questions for ourselves at least. Are sauropod portrayals consistent--if not with the view of current science--then with each other?

Fig 3. Ewer Unmarked, probably English
(London) about 1610 Porcelain (China, Ming Dynasty,
probably Wan-li period [1573–1619])
with silver mounts Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Click and drag photo to resize.

Did they have ears? Did they have a proboscis as some wonder or at least was the indication of a "longer" nose reflected in ancient representations of the animals? We've reached a few conclusions ourselves but as always, leave you to form your own opinions. Here at, we try to get out in front of science--not just out in front but maybe- a little off to the side as well.

At least, can we agree that man in the recent and/or historical past encountered living, breathing dinosaurs? Hello?

No Sauropod Proboscis

Paleoneurological evidence against a proboscis in the sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus. 2006.
Fabien Knoll et al. Geobios 39: 215-221.

Abstract: The dinosaur Diplodocus has a single, relatively large external bony narial orifice that is positioned far back between the orbits. In some mammals, such as elephants and tapirs, the caudal position of the narial opening is associated with a proboscis, so it has been suggested that Diplodocus possibly also had a trunk.

In elephants, the facial nerve is large as it emerges from the brain. A branch of this nerve and a branch of the trigeminal nerve unite to form the proboscidial nerve that supplies the muscles of the powerful and complex motor system of the trunk.

In contrast to the situation in modern elephants, the absolute as well as the relatively small size of the facial nerve in Diplodocus (deduced from an endocranial cast) indicates that there is no paleoneuroanatomical evidence for the presence of an elephant-like proboscis in this genus.

A conclusive comparison of Mesopotaium and others representations with the skull of "diplodocus longus" here

From Ears to Tails

Article Source: Royal B.C. Museum

Fig 4. (China, Ming Dynasty,
1368, until 1644 A.D)
inlaid "sauropod" with dogs and "dragons"
Click and drag photo to resize.

Dinosaurs varied in shape and size. Some grew no bigger than a chicken, while others would dwarf an elephant. Some had bumps on their heads, others had horns.

Some had spiked tails and others wore spikes on their backs.

But what about ears? Did dinosaurs have ears like ours? Did they point upward like a cat’s, or hang down like a hound dog’s?

We can only guess the shape of dinosaur ears, because external ear tissue is generally soft and fleshy, and does not fossilize. Certainly, dinosaurs could hear. But not all animals have external ear parts.

Because some modern relatives of dinosaurs – namely, birds and reptiles – have no external ear parts, it is unlikely that Dinosaurs had them.

It is difficult to know – and it’s also difficult to imagine T-Rex with elephant ears!

Study Paints New Picture of Dinosaur's Nose

John Roach for National Geographic News
August 2, 2001

A new study suggests that anyone who sits down to draw a detailed picture of what dinosaurs may have looked like will have to tweak the nose a bit to get it right.

Usually the flesh-covered nasal passages of dinosaurs are shown toward the back of the openings in the nose bone. But Lawrence Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, says that's wrong, and the nostrils were really much closer to the front, just above the mouth, and were larger than thought.

The finding, which Witmer reported in the August 3 issue of Science, is significant not just because it changes our idea of what dinosaurs looked like. It also has implications for how dinosaurs breathed, smelled, and regulated their body temperature and water loss.

Fig 5. Han dynasty ((206 BC–220 AD))Bronze Ladle
with "dragon head" handle. China.
Source: Chinaweb. Click and drag photo to resize.

"I don't know why we got it wrong for so long," said Witmer. "In general, the fleshy nostril—the opening into the nasal cavity—has escaped scientific inquiry."

People have relatively small bony nostrils, so there's little doubt about where the flesh-covered nasal passages can be located to effectively do their job.

The bony noses of dinosaurs, however, could have been more than two feet (0.6 meters) long, which leaves the placement of the fleshy nostrils open to interpretation.

Witmer said traditional views of the nostril placement are probably rooted in a historical belief that the huge, long-necked sauropod dinosaurs were amphibious. In that case, nasal passages positioned further back on the head would have worked like a snorkel.

Evidence uncovered in the 1970s suggested that sauropods were not aquatic, but landlubbers. Yet for some reason, the early depictions of sauropods with nostrils further back on the head didn't change, and that position was also picked up in renderings of other dinosaurs.

Up-Front Results

Witmer undertook the study because he is interested in the overall physiology of dinosaurs. He was curious about why the fleshy nostrils of dinosaurs were shown where they are, but he couldn't find an explanation.

So he set out to get a more accurate idea of just where a dinosaur's nose was probably positioned. He did X-ray examinations of living birds, crocodiles, and lizards, which are thought to be surviving relatives of dinosaurs.

He painted the fleshy nostrils of the animals with latex and sprinkled the painted parts with barium sulfate so they could be seen on X-ray film. This allowed him to examine the position of the fleshy nostrils in relation to the bony nose structure.

To his surprise, almost all the animals had nostrils that were perched toward the front of the heads, close to the upper margin of the mouth (known as a "rostral" position). Witmer then examined turtles and mammals, and found that those animals also had frontal nostrils.

"There seems to be a consistent rule about where nostrils are placed," said Jack Hayes, program director for ecological and evolutionary physiology at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.

To confirm the finding, Witmer examined grooves and pits within the bony nostril, which are the mark of an intricate network of blood vessels in the region of the flesh-covered nasal passages.

By comparing these signature markings in the nose bones of modern-day animals with similar markings on dinosaur skulls, Witmer was able to map the likely position of cartilage, blood vessels, and other soft tissues that made up the nasal cavity of dinosaurs.

"We had two independent lines of evidence that converged on dinosaurs having their nostrils parked out front, which is a departure from what we had.

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