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Naturwissenschaften. 2007 Aug;94(8):623-30. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

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

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Department of Physiology, Center of Space Medicine Berlin, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany.


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 m(3) (slim version) and 1.14 m(3) (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 m(2), of which, in both reconstructions of P. engelhardti, approximately 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 m(2), whereas that of the robust version has a surface area of 2.73 m(2). The body volumes calculated for the slim version were as follows: head 0.006 m(3), neck 0.016 m(3), fore limbs 0.020 m(3), hind limbs 0.08 m(3), thoracic cavity 0.533 m(3), and tail 0.136 m(3). For the robust model, the following volumes were established: 0.01 m(3) head, neck 0.026 m(3), fore limbs 0.025 m(3), hind limbs 0.18 m(3), thoracic cavity 0.616 m(3), and finally, tail 0.28 m(3). 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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