Ten Long, Happy Years of Xenoposeidon

Science is a process, not merely a collecting of bits of information. To that end, one of the most rewarding things that comes from being involved in science is not just the discovering of new stuff, but the seeing of how ideas and proposals are received over the years, how they weather the accruing of new data, how they’re incorporated into developing models, and even how and why they’re not incorporated into said models. Needless to say, all of this is especially interesting when the data itself is your own: whether it’s a lone data point, a stack of data, or a theoretical model, it’s normal (I think… I hope) to see that stuff as ‘your baby’ and to care about what happens to it.

The Xenoposeidon type specimen, as illustrated by Taylor & Naish (2007), in (A) left lateral, (B) right lateral, (C) anterior and (D) posterior views. It’s a weird vertebra indeed, the forward-sloping neural arch being just one of many weird details. Credit: Taylor & Naish 2007

On November 15th 2007, sauropod expert Mike P. Taylor and myself published Xenoposeidon proneneukos, a sauropod from the Lower Cretaceous rocks of East Sussex, England, based on the single dorsal vertebra NHMUK R2095 (held in the collections of The Natural History Museum, London). The big deal about Xenoposeidon is not just that we named it as a new taxon, but that we found it to be so weird compared to other sauropods that – we thought – it might represent some new, hitherto unrecognised, sauropod lineage. That’s a bold claim to make on the basis of a single bone, but science is all about going where the evidence leads. Anyway, Mike and I both had a lot of fun with the publicity surrounding our original paper (Taylor & Naish 2007), and a ton has been written about Xenoposeidon online, mostly at the sauropod-themed blog SV-POW! The original, 2007 Tet Zoo take on the specimen is here.

Here’s one of several ‘full-body reconstructions’ of Xenoposeidon we had made: this one shows Xeno in position on Matt Wedel’s brachiosaur reconstruction. In case anyone doubts, this was never meant to be remotely serious. And Xeno is not thought to have been brachiosaur-shaped anymore, anyway. Credit: Mike Taylor, CC BY 4.0

So, here we are, ten years on. I wasn’t able to publish anything on the 10th birthday itself, but I figure today is close enough – it’s the right month, at least. What has happened to our beloved Xenoposeidon in those ten intervening years? Oh, and belated happy birthday, Xeno.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *