24. Nimble Diplodocus, 1907


The Carnegie Museum was not alone in finding Diplodocus remains; the American Museum of Natural History recovered two partial Diplodocus skeletons in Wyoming at about the same time as Hatcher was finding his, which brought this slender sauropod to the attention of Henry Fairfield Osborn. In an 1899 paper, Osborn took issue with the conventional picture of sauropods, at least as applied to Diplodocus. "There is a traditional view," he said, "that these animals were ponderous and sluggish. This view may apply in a measure to Brontosaurus. In the case of Diplodocus it is certainly unsupported by facts." Osborn in addition proposed a novel function for the tail, which he thought could function "as a lever...to raise the entire forward portion of the body upwards. Thus the quadrupedal Dinosaurs occasionally assumed the position characteristic of the bipedal dinosaurs--namely, a tripodal position."

In 1907 the American Museum of Natural History prepared one of its two Diplodocus specimens for presentation to the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt. To celebrate the occasion, Scientific American asked Charles Knight for a cover painting. Knight obliged and gave wonderful form to Osborn's vision with this remarkable painting. We would not again see the like of such a light-footed sauropod until the American Museum erected its rearing Barosaurus mount in 1991.

The Knight cover painting was accompanied by a short article on the Senckenberg Diplodocus mount. For a view of the Senckenberg mount, click here.


Knight, Charles R. "Diplodocus Restored. The largest creature that ever roamed the earth [cover illustration]," in: Scientific American, vol. 96, no. 24 (June 15, 1907), p. 485. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 24.

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