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Featherweight to multi-ton: The mass of dinosaurs

I had the pleasure to produce this illustration for the press coverage of a newly published paper by the paleontologists Nicolas Campione and David Evans!

In the research they reviewed the accuracy and precision of the techniques used over the years to estimate the mass of dinosaurs. In general, there are two main approaches: the use of three-dimensional models of the animal to calculate the volumetric density ("VD"), mostly used for extinct groups, such as the non-avian dinosaurs themselves, and the extant-scaling ("ES"), a comparative calculation after measurements of the bones of extinct taxa with the modern ones, more commonly used in extinct animals of living groups, such as birds and mammals.

Although different, the paper shows that both methods point, in most cases, to consistent results - VD offering more precision, and ES accuracy. In an interview for, Dr. Campione points out that "the approaches are more complementary than antagonistic".

The study is important because the mass of the animal directly influences its lifestyle, its diet, its locomotion, its metabolism, its growth and even more aspects. The better we understand and can estimate the mass, the better we can know these creatures.

The paper also lists non-avian dinosaurs, separated into tables of 10 largest and 10 smallest quadrupeds and bipeds, and calculates their mass. The illustration here selects some of these dinosaurs and reconstructs them in life, showing the variety of shapes and sizes of the group throughout the Mesozoic.

The paper:

An article about the research: