I recently posted an updated version of the ‘Science of Godzilla’ article, and what a great success it was. But I’m kicking myself, because I totally forgot something else I should have mentioned: Tracy L. Ford recently had cause to produce a number of anatomical drawings of Zilla (aka GINO*/Deanzilla/Fraudzilla), the monster bipedal reptile that invades New York in the 1998 TriStar movie Godzilla. Like all Godzilla fans, I don’t regard Zilla as a ‘Godzilla’ at all; rather, it’s a charlatan, an imposter. And the movie itself is awful.
* Godzilla In Name Only
Anyway, Tracy has been kind enough to let me use his drawings here. Here they are, with a bit of commentary.
We begin with a full skeletal reconstruction (and anatomical life drawing) of the creature. In the skeleton, note that Tracy has provided Zilla with a pelvis where both the pubis and ischium are relatively short: indeed, Zilla’s body and pelvic region is not particularly deep, so it cannot have had long-shafted, rod-like pubes and ischia like those present in theropod dinosaurs. Tracy has also given Zilla a lizard-like, fenestrated scapulocoracoid. We don’t know whether Zilla has gastralia or not: if it is a mutated lizard (see below), the presence of inscriptional ribs incorporated into the abdominal musculature would be predicted.
The gracile, slender-shafted hindlimb bones of Zilla appear somewhat surprising in view of Zilla’s incredible size (unwards of 20,000 tons): you might predict that there would be large trochanters for hypertrophied musculature, expanded articular ends, or much thicker bone shafts… but no. The gracility of Zilla is, indeed, a bit of a paradox (Christiansen 2000).
Note in the life drawing that Zilla has pronated forelimbs where the radius is medially positioned and the palms face the ground. This configuration is most likely present because the designers looked at old illustrations of theropods.
Zilla’s dorsal armour is undeniably similar to that of the true Godzilla. Note in Tracy’s illustrations that there are several parallel rows of osteoderms, extending from the pectoral region to the end of the tail. Transversely-arranged, flat scutes and lateral rows of smaller scutes cover the dorsal surface of the neck.
Zilla’s identity is somewhat obscure. It’s implied in the movie that it’s a mutated giant lizard (perhaps a marine iguana… which would explain why Zilla originated in the south Pacific* and eats fish**), and a mutated giant lizard only superficially similar to theropod dinosaurs. Zilla’s feet don’t make much sense in that the hallux (digit I) is absent, while the small, divergent digit is digit V (the one on the outside edge of the foot). I reckon that the designers looked at theropod feet, but then ‘flipped’ the foot anatomy in order that Zilla didn’t look precisely like a theropod. You can see from Tracy’s drawings of the hand that Zilla has a divergent thumb, in which case it’s superficially similar to theropods and different from lizards.
* Given that marine iguanas only live on the Galapagos Islands.
** Given that marine iguanas are strict herbivores.
Finally, we come to cranial anatomy. Zilla’s massive lower jaw and protruding chin region are peculiar and anatomically novel, and perhaps incongruous with its diet of fish: you might regard its head as ‘over designed’, or perhaps the result of a hormonal imbalance. Indeed, the creature proves to be a parthenogenetic female, pregnant with a clutch of several hundred eggs, so something freaky is going in hormonal terms (Zilla’s parthenogenetic ability is at least consistent with a squamate identity: e.g., Maslin 1971, Lenk et al. 2005, Watts et al. 2006). The laterally positioned nostril and eye don’t appear at all consistent with Zilla’s amphibious/semi-aquatic lifestyle, but then neither do any other of its characteristics. It looks about as aquatic as a psittacosaur (ha ha – – an in-joke).
Above is Tracy’s take on the skull. That massive coronoid process is consistent with a very powerful bite. The fact that the tooth crowns appear borne on bony pedicels is peculiar and makes it looks as if the dentition is acrodont (where sockets or an anchoring groove are absent, and where the teeth are fused to the jaw bones), but…
… as you can see here, the teeth are very long-rooted and hence the dentition must in fact be thecodont (where the teeth implant in deep sockets). Tracy surmises that canals in the tooth crowns are connected via ducts to specialised labial glands.
To my knowledge, none of this has been published, though I believe it did form the topic of a conference presentation. The skeleton anatomy of Zilla is evidently quite well known (arguably more so than that of the real Godzilla), though no information is yet available on its internal soft-tissue anatomy. I hope you enjoyed this additional excursion into monster anatomy, and many thanks indeed to Tracy Ford for allowing use of his illustrations.
For other Tet Zoo articles on speculative zoology, see…
- Oh no, not another giant predatory flightless bat from the future
- How (not) to keep dinosaurs
- Goodbye from the stem-haematotherm, goodbye from me
- Aquatic proto-people and the
theoryhypothesis of initial bipedalism
- How intelligent dinosaurs conquered the world
- Shemhazai and other flightless pterosaurs
- Come back Lank, (nearly) all is forgiven
- Alien para-tetrapods of Snaiad
- Richard Dawkins and the crappy ‘humanoid dinosaurs’ that just won’t die
- The Tet Zoo guide to the creatures of Avatar
- Squamozoic sneak-peek
- The science of Godzilla, 2010
Refs – –
Christiansen, P. 2000. Godzilla from a zoological perspective. Mathematical Geology 32, 231-245.
Lenk, P., Eidenmueller, B., Staudter, H., Wicker, R. & Wink, M. 2005. A parthenogenetic Varanus. Amphibia-Reptilia 26, 507-514.
Maslin, T. P. 1971. Parthenogenesis in reptiles. American Zoologist 11, 361-380.
Watts, P. C., Buley, K. R., Sanderson, S., Boardman, W., Ciofi, C. & Gibson, R. 2006. Parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons. Nature 444, 1021-1022.