The secret Plateosaurus mating grounds?

9 08 2007

With all the hubbub over the new Homo erectus/Homo habilis paper in Nature, it might be easy to miss another important bit of paleo-news; in Frick, Switzerland, near the German border, two more specimens of Plateosaurus have come out of the ground near other sites known for Plateosaurus discoveries. This expands the area in which these dinosaurs could be found, and there are likely many more in the area.

I remember reading suggestions here and there that Plateosaurus lived in large groups or herds, or might even be migrating. The extensions of the already-known sites, if studied carefully, could definitely give us some more clues as to the paleobiology of Plateosaurus. For those unfamiliar with Plateosaurus, it was a large Triassic prosauropod dinosaur, a group of dinosaurs once considered to be ancestral to the great sauropods (like Apatosaurus) of the Jurassic, although many scientists now consider them to be a sister group of sauropods. Regardless of whether the prosauropods were ancestral to sauropods or not, they are closely related, and can give us some idea as to what the ancestors of both groups looked like. One of the most basal known sauropod dinosaurs, Anchisaurus, used to be classified as a prosauropod, although it exhibits a more “primitive” form overall than Plateosaurusdoes in that in lacks many of the specializations to an entirely herbivorous diet.

All of this, of course, reminds me that I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to sauropods and their ancestry, and I fully expect Julia or someone else to come along and set me straight, hah.

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7 responses

9 08 2007
Zach Miller

Anchisaurus’ exact status is still uncertain, although I’m still going for “prosauropod” status. Got to love Plateosaurus, though–that bugger was doing SOMETHING right!

9 08 2007
Julia

Heh, don’t think there’s anything to “set right” there! I’m very excited about this – haven’t been able to look at the news yet, but already I’m rubbing my hands together with glee at the prospect of more specimens…

Off the top of my head and without checking the literature, as far as I’m aware, the “Prosauropoda” as such are no longer considered to be monophyletic, but there is still a core monophyletic group of more derived prosauropods, and I think Plateosaurus is in this clade. I do remember reading a paper by Adam Yates about Anchisaurus a while ago. I really need to go back and revisit that…

At the end of the first episode of Walking With Dinosaurs, “a huge herd of Plateosaurus” came walking across the river, and Kenneth Brannagh (at least in the UK version!) proudly proclaimed that this was the shape of things to come. Still sends tingles up and down my spine seeing them all coming towards the camera. So this was about eight years ago.

9 08 2007
Zach Miller

Julia, Plateosaurus is among the core prosauropods. The more questionable ones are the melanorosaurs, which shift between sauropod, and prosauropodian sauropod-mimic depending on whose phylogeny you’re reading. The paper by Adam Yates (2004) names a new English species of Anchisaurus (it’s not actually a paper–more of a book in Postilla) and hypothesizes that Anchisaurus is among the most basal sauropod taxa (along with Saturnalia).

I haven’t had a chance to read the paper myself (if anyone has it, PDF it my way, please!) but it sounds fascinating. Apparently Yates also discusses Herrerasaurus, finding it to lie outside of the Theropodmorpha, and attributes its theropod-like features (intermandibular joint, recurved teeth, big claws) to its hypercarnivory lifestyle.

But don’t worry about Plateosaurus. It’s still the poster child prosauropod!

10 08 2007
Julia

Thanks for the clarification Zach – all my reprints and photocopies are in a foot-high pile waiting for me to put them in the new filing cabinet. I’ve definitely got the Yates (2004) paper (somewhere…), maybe on a CD Matt Wedel sent me a while ago, maybe as a photocopy – very easy to scan though and send you.

10 08 2007
laelaps

Thanks Zach and Julia! Any relevant papers you guys might have around that would bring me up to speed on sauropods, I would most certainly appreciate. Thanks for bringing your experience and expertise here!

10 08 2007
Zach Miller

That would be awesome, Julia. Brian, once I update my paleo paper list (it’s over 35 pages now), I’m going to send it to you as a Word document. If any papers I have look terribly interesting to you, let me know.

18 08 2007
Boneyard iii « microecos

[…] Prosauropod jackpot. […]

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