Mussaurus

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Mussaurus
Temporal range: Late Triassic, 215–203 Ma
Mussaurus patagonikus DSC 2904.jpg
Fossil juvenile skeleton
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Family: Mussauridae
Bonaparte & Vince, 1979
Genus: Mussaurus
Bonaparte & Vince, 1979
Type species
Mussaurus patagonicus
Bonaparte & Vince, 1979

Mussaurus (meaning "mouse lizard") is a genus of herbivorous sauropodomorph dinosaur that lived in southern Argentina during the Late Triassic, about 215 million years ago. It receives its name from the small size of the skeletons of juvenile and infant individuals, which were once the only known specimens of the genus. However, since Mussaurus is now known from adult specimens,[1] the name is something of a misnomer; adults possibly reached 3 m (10 ft) in length, and weighed 70 kilograms (150 lb).[2] Mussaurus possesses anatomical features suggesting a close, possibly transitional evolutionary relationship with true sauropods.[3]

Discovery

Infant and juvenile fossils of Mussaurus were first discovered by an expedition led by Jose Bonaparte during the 1970s to the El Tranquilo Formation.[3] There the team found fossilized eggs and hatchlings, which added insight into the reproductive strategies of Mussaurus and other sauropodomorph dinosaurs.[3] The first adult specimens of Mussaurus were described in 2013. Some of these specimens had first been described in 1980 and were originally attributed to the genus Plateosaurus.[1]

Phylogeny

Previous to the discovery of adult specimens of Mussaurus, the phylogenetic position of this taxon was difficult to establish. Infant and juvenile fossils are known to show more basal traits than adult specimens of the same taxon. Furthermore, the recently discovered one subadult and three adult specimens assigned to Mussaurus are more complete than other material assigned to it. Therefore, a cladistic analysis of basal sauropodomorphs performed by Otero and Pol (2013) to test the phylogenetic relationships of Mussaurus, included information only from adult specimens. The following cladogram is simplified after their analysis (relationships outside Plateosauria are not shown).[1]

 Plateosauria 

Ruehleia

 Plateosauridae 

Unaysaurus

Plateosaurus engelhardti

Plateosaurus gracilis

Plateosaurus ingens

 Massopoda 
 Riojasauridae 

Eucnemesaurus

Riojasaurus

Ignavusaurus

Sarahsaurus

 Massospondylidae 

Coloradisaurus

Glacialisaurus

Lufengosaurus

Massospondylus

Adeopapposaurus

Leyesaurus

 Sauropodiformes 

Jingshanosaurus

 Anchisauria 

Anchisaurus

Seitaad

Yunnanosaurus

Mussaurus

Aardonyx

Leonerasaurus

 Melanorosauridae 

Camelotia

Melanorosaurus

 Sauropoda 

Blikanasaurus

Antetonitrus

Lessemsaurus

Gongxianosaurus

Isanosaurus

 Gravisauria 
 Vulcanodontidae 

Tazoudasaurus

Vulcanodon

 Eusauropoda 

Barapasaurus

Patagosaurus

Shunosaurus

Omeisaurus

Mamenchisaurus

Cetiosaurus

Neosauropoda

Reproduction

Life restoration of an infant eating a Dicroidium fern

Mussaurus specimens have been found in association with nests that are believed to contain multiple eggs apiece. The skeletons of Mussaurus infants were small, only six inches long excluding the tail, but a total of 20 to 37 centimetres (7.9 to 14.6 in) long. This is about the size of a small lizard. Juveniles differed from adults in proportion in addition to size and mass. As is common for dinosaurs, juvenile Mussaurus had tall skulls with short snouts and large eyes.[3]

These proportions are common in many infant vertebrates and are often associated with species that provide parental care during the vulnerable early stages of life. Adults are expected to have longer snouts and necks, as typical in early sauropodomorphs.

References

  • J. F. Bonaparte and M. Vince. 1979. El hallazgo del primer nido de dinosaurios triasicos, (Saurischia, Prosauropoda), Triasico Superior de Patagonia, Argentina [The discovery of the first nest of Triassic dinosaurs (Saurischia, Prosauropoda,) from the Upper Triassic of Patagonia, Argentina]. Ameghiniana 16(1-2):173-182
  1. ^ a b c Otero, A.; Pol, D. (2013). "Postcranial anatomy and phylogenetic relationships of Mussaurus patagonicus (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 33 (5): 1138. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.769444.
  2. ^ Montague, Jeremy R. (2006). "Estimates of body size and geological time of origin for 612 dinosaur genera (Saurischia, Ornithischia)", Florida Scientist. 69(4): 243-257.
  3. ^ a b c d "Mussaurus." In: Dodson, Peter & Britt, Brooks & Carpenter, Kenneth & Forster, Catherine A. & Gillette, David D. & Norell, Mark A. & Olshevsky, George & Parrish, J. Michael & Weishampel, David B. The Age of Dinosaurs. Publications International, LTD. p. 40. ISBN 0-7853-0443-6.

External links

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