The Umbaran starfighters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars have an unusual shape — even for a ship in the Star Wars universe. And that shape reminded some paleontologists of something: It looks very similar to the cervical vertebra from an apatosaurus, as they wrote in the blog Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week.
Here's a picture of what those vertebrae look like, based on dinosaur fossils we've found:
And here's some concept art for the Umbaran starfighters, by artist Russell Chong:
So... coincidence or imitation? Chong himself wasn't aware of any connection between a dinosaur spine and these fearsome spaceships when he did the above concept art. But he wasn't the original designer. That was David Hobbins, who told Mike Taylor from Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week:
I remember the original design perfectly, and you are absolutely right, I was inspired by the skeletal forms of dinosaur bones. It's pretty cool that you were able to discern that!
I've looked for the original photo I took of the vertebra, but it seems to be lost in the archives. I can't confirm that it was of an Apatosaurus vertebra exactly, but it's quite possible. I was at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and took a number of photos that day.
Nature renders complex and beautiful designs; I often find myself drawn to studying organic forms and patterns as inspiration in my vehicle designs.
Science is awesome — especially when it finds its way into our favorite science fiction universes in unexpected ways. [via SVPOD]