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Body mass estimations for Plateosaurus engelhardti using laser scanning and 3D reconstruction methods

Abstract

Both body mass and surface area are factors determining the essence of any living organism. This should also hold true for an extinct organism such as a dinosaur. The present report discusses the use of a new 3D laser scanner method to establish body masses and surface areas of an Asian elephant (Zoological Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark) and of Plateosaurus engelhardti, a prosauropod from the Upper Triassic, exhibited at the Paleontological Museum in Tübingen (Germany). This method was used to study the effect that slight changes in body shape had on body mass for P. engelhardti. It was established that body volumes varied between 0.79 m3 (slim version) and 1.14 m3 (robust version), resulting in a presumable body mass of 630 and 912 kg, respectively. The total body surface areas ranged between 8.8 and 10.2 m2, of which, in both reconstructions of P. engelhardti, ∼33% account for the thorax area alone. The main difference between the two models is in the tail and hind limb reconstruction. The tail of the slim version has a surface area of 1.98 m2, whereas that of the robust version has a surface area of 2.73 m2. The body volumes calculated for the slim version were as follows: head 0.006 m3, neck 0.016 m3, fore limbs 0.020 m3, hind limbs 0.08 m3, thoracic cavity 0.533 m3, and tail 0.136 m3. For the robust model, the following volumes were established: 0.01 m3 head, neck 0.026 m3, fore limbs 0.025 m3, hind limbs 0.18 m3, thoracic cavity 0.616 m3, and finally, tail 0.28 m3. Based on these body volumes, scaling equations were used to assess the size that the organs of this extinct dinosaur have.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank all the members of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) Research Unit 533 “Biology of the sauropod dinosaurs: the evolution of gigantism”. Further thanks go to the staff of the institutions in which we measured the skeletons, the Paleontological Museum of Tübingen and the Zoological Museum of Copenhagen, in particular for their enthusiastic response to our project, their patience and their support, and H. Mallison (Tübingen) for his help to calculate the centers of gravity. The project has been granted financial support from the DFG-GU 414/3-1.

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Correspondence to Hanns-Christian Gunga.

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Gunga, HC., Suthau, T., Bellmann, A. et al. Body mass estimations for Plateosaurus engelhardti using laser scanning and 3D reconstruction methods. Naturwissenschaften 94, 623–630 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-007-0234-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-007-0234-2

Keywords

  • Dinosauria
  • Sauropoda
  • Paleophysiology
  • Body mass estimation
  • Specific tissue density
  • Paleoecology