Guanlong time!

It's been a long time coming, but here at last is the promised skeletal of Guanlong wucaii, as selected by you the readers in the first ever "Choose my next skeletal" poll. You may be wondering what took me so long (one or two individuals were pointed enough to ask that outright). One thing you should know straight off - Guanlong was actually a late addition to the poll on my part, as I didn't have as much data on it as many of the other specimens. Since it was known from two quite excellent individuals and had been described I figured it wouldn't be too challenging. Famous last words, right? 

Yes, it's really here!

But first, here is the long awaited Guanlong wucaii skeletal. As we've seen in other reconstructions it has a long head, but it's also a bit longer necked than I had anticipated. Even more surprising is how robust the remarkably complete forelimb is. In most other ways it seems like a typical basal tyrannosauroid, only 'turned up to eleven' via the lovely crest on the skull.

So with two excellent skeletons preserved why was there difficulty? The original (and only) description by Xu et al. in 2006 was in Nature, which makes sense given how sensational the find of a crested basal tyrannosaur was at the time. While high-impact journals like Nature and Science are great for disseminating important new discoveries (and aren't bad for the authors' careers) they also have strict page limits, which precludes the sort of detailed osteology you would get in a large monograph - the sort of thing I rely on to do a skeletal of a specimen that I haven't been able to measure and photograph myself.

Xu et al., 2006, Supplemental Fig. 2.

Xu et al., 2006, Supplemental Fig. 2.

Even combing through the supplementary material the authors could only figure some of the bones from the adult specimen of Guanlong (the juvenile has, well, juvenile proportions, so was of limited use restoring the adult). Most of the images were of the appendicular skeleton (the arms and legs), which is certainly useful but if you don't get the proportions of the vertebral column right you can't capture the basic body proportions of an animal. In short, I was unable to do the skeletal based on the (so far) only published paper. 

Luckily as the summer dragged on I got a bevy of assistance from (among others) David Hone, which was greatly appreciated. I dare say that without additional photos (with scale bars!) I would not have been able to solve some of the proportional mysteries I was faced with. Of course the usual summer items piled up as time went by (commissions, research, teaching, family). But now it's done, and I do hope it's been worth the wait.