Sauropods were big. And the cost of plastics rose up in recent years. Maybe that’s why we no longer see models as big as the Carnegie Collection’s Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus of the 1980s? Every once in a while, however, it surfaces a brand brave enough to try a sauropod in the same scale as most of the dinosaur models, that 1/30-1/40 that has become a standard nowadays, gaining the attention of collectors. Let’s see how Haolonggood fared with Apatosaurus, the famous Morrison Formation sauropod.
The profile of Apatosaurus’ skull closely resembles that of its relative Diplodocus. When seen from above, instead, it’s an almost perfect rectangule, even if the Haolonggood model, to be perfect, should have had a wider, squarer muzzle (as it is, it’s more reminiscent of other sauropods such as Tornieria). Diplodocids, in fact, have surprisingly wide skulls, with square snouts that indicate that they weren’t picky eaters, and the skull of Apatosaurus is square for a diplodocid, too. There are three details distinguishing this model from the traditional image of Apatosaurus: The first is the position of the nasal openings, no longer in the middle of the eyes, where the bony nostrils are, but lower along the muzzle, as suggested by Witmer (2001) and in analogy with living animals. The retraction of bony nostrils is probably an adaptation to strengthen the muzzle, which is now made of compact bone, with no openings. And this fits with the second detail, the beak: the idea of a beaked sauropod may appear strange, but it’s supported by the discovery of a Camarasaurus specimen (Wiersma & Sander, 2017) in which this tissue, usually degraded before it can fossilize, was preserved. This integument is also supported by comparisons with traces left on the bones of Galeamopus, another diplodocid (Tschopp et al, 2018), and those of other dinosaurs and living species. From Galeamopus comes the third detail, too: small irregularities on the lacrimal bones are indicative of the Haolonggood Apatosaurus’ “eye shader”, a traits perhaps useful for protecting the eyes from the sun.
Haolonggood Apatosaurus’ small head connects to a neck thicker than the head itself, a massive, heavy thing. Was Apatosaurus neck truly like that? Well… Yes. Of all the sauropod necks, Apatosaurus’ one was truly monstrous. Cervical vertebrae flare downwards and outwards, which means that the lower side of the neck was thicker than the upper side, like an isosceles trapezoid. The Haolonggood Apatosaurus’s neck has a flat upper side – good – is thick – good – but its widest point (which is the widest point of the cervicals, too) is more or less one third of its height, instead of the lower side. Apatosaurus’ cervical ribs were so big and thick that perhaps they were visible from the outside, and a recent paleoart trend which appears in the Haolonggood model too is to add a keratinous spike under each cervical, turning an already dangerous weapon against predators and other Apatosaurus both (just imagine several tonnes of flesh and bones which moves with relative dexterity against an opponent) in an even deadlier thing. Basically, the neck should have been wider and squarer, so much so that it would merge with the body without the great difference with the shoulders we see in the Haolonggood Apatosaurus (See the Sideshow Apatosaurus maquette) for a comparison.
Some years ago a paper by Vidal et al. raised an interesting debate about sauropods posture, suggesting that their sacrum was not parallel to the horizon, but variously angled in respect to the front half of the body, thus giving these animals a more inclined posture than the one we’re used to. This for the wedge shape of the sacrum, and the idea is supported by the way the scapular girdle articulates. Specifically, Apatosauruswas not studied, but Diplodocus was and, since this sacrum inclination seems to be a trait common to entire clades, probably the conclusions about Diplodocus can be applied to Apatosaurus, too. Here, Haolonggood preferred a more traditional approach. It should also be noted that its back is tall, and Apatosaurus is among the several dinosaurs (like Acrocanthosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, Suchomimus and Amargasaurus) to have elongated neural spines.
The forelimb is one of the most peculiar features of sauropods, and one of the keys to their exceptional size. Specifically, sauropods are the only group of dinosaurs to have their palms facing backwards (the Jurassic Park raptor postion, to put it simply), an adaptation they developed by not modifying the wrist (the hand has the same angle in respect to the forelimb that all the other dinosaurs have), but twisting the entire forelimb. This is also reflected in the musculature and is very difficult to achieve in model form without an adequate knowledge of comparate anatomy (as you can see with models of other brands that got it wrong). Rather than making a mistake, the Haolonggood sculptors decided for a safe path, hiding the contours of the muscles under thick skin. The hand, too, deserves special attention: Jurassic Park and everyone copying from Jurassic Park has four-legged dinosaurs with hands similar to those of an elephant, because “why bother it’s all the same stuff after all, no?”. But fossilized footprints show us that most sauropods (with the exception of the more derived titanosaurs) had hands shaped more like a horseshoe, as in the Haolonggood model. ANd they were armed – again, with the exception of derived titanosaurs – with a sharp claw, probably useful for defense. In the Haolongood model, it looks a bit small. Perhaps for safety reasons, even if it’s weird that the spikes under the neck passed a safecty check but the thumb claw failed.
Unlike the forelimb, the hind limb shows enough details of its internal anatomy to be criticizable: in particular, the shape of the ileum is clearly distinguishable. Unfortunately, the role of the ileum is to provide anchorage for the thigh muscles: there should be no pace between bone and muscles. Like the claw of the hand, the claws of the feet are blunt, but their number is correct (again, no elephant legs) and they face outwards, as shown by the fossils.
The tail base of the Haolonggood Apatosaurus is thick, not a stirrup to ward off flies but a beam to hit any predator desperate enough to approach with. Unfortunately, there’s again the same mistake they made with the neck: the caudofemoralis muscle, the largest muscle in modern reptiles, is particularly well developed in diplodocids, and wraps around the underside of the tail. The tail should therefore appear wider on the lower side, not on the dorsal side or halfway the height. Fortunately, the way the tail tapers towards the whip-like end is accurate.
Along the entire back of the Haolonggood Apatosaurus runs a ridge of dermal spines, of various length. These spikes, which have become a paleoart meme and now pops ups on the back of basically any dinosaur, were based on diplodocids: a single specimen (of indeterminate species) from the Howe Quarry shows these spikes in along the tail. Since their function is not clear, it’s still up to be proven their presence in other diplodocids (and, in fact, outsideof their tail), but they are often used in restorations as they are aesthetically pleasing. The remaining integument does not look like it follows that closelu the recent integument description of a juvenile Diplodocus (Gallagher et al. 2021), being generalized scales and folds.
One of the biggest selling points of Haolonggoods is their painting, and the Apatosaurus is no exception: the pattern is complex, with blurred streaks that from the nape of the neck become more and more defined along the back, turning into the bands on the tail. There’s another version available, of a simpler gray but with the tip of the tail in vibrant orange, perhaps for communication with other Apatosaurus or to warn predators of the dangerous weapon.
In conclusion, even even if with some more or less critical issues (sad, given the attention it shows in other regards), the Haolonggood Apatosaurus is a noteworthy version of this animal, certainly the best among the brands of this scale. And if its size doesn’t catch the eye enough, its complex coloration sure does.
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Gallagher T.; Poole J.; Schein J.P. (2021). Evidence of integumentary scale diversity in the late Jurassic Sauropod Diplodocus sp. from the Mother’s Day Quarry, Montana. PeerJ, 9, e11202. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.11202
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Wiersma K.; Sander P. (2017) The dentition of a well-preserved specimen of Camarasaurus sp: implications for function, tooth replacement, soft part reconstruction, and food intake. Paläontologische Zeitschrift. doi: 10.1007/s12542-016-0332-6
Witmer L.M. (2001) Nostril position in dinosaurs and other vertebrates and its significance for nasal function Science 293:5531, 850-853
Whitlock J.A. (2011) Inferences of Diplodocoid (Sauropoda: Dinosauria) Feeding Behavior from Snout Shape and Microwear Analyses. PLoS ONE 6(4):e18304
The author also thanks users of the Discord server “Sauropodomorphs”.