Riojasaurus

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Riojasaurus
Temporal range: Late Triassic
Riojasaurus sketch3.jpg
life reconstruction of Riojasaurus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Family: Riojasauridae
Genus: Riojasaurus
Bonaparte, 1967
Type species
R. incertus Bonaparte, 1967

Riojasaurus (meaning "Rioja lizard") was a herbivorous prosauropod dinosaur named after La Rioja Province in Argentina where it was found by José Bonaparte. It lived during the Late Triassic and grew to about 10 metres (33 ft) long.[1] Riojasaurus is the only known riojasaurid to live in South America.

Description[edit]

Skull cast

Riojasaurus had a heavy body, bulky legs, and a long neck and tail. Its leg bones were dense and massive for a prosauropod.[1] By contrast, its vertebrae were lightened by hollow cavities, and unlike most prosauropods, Riojasaurus had four sacral vertebrae instead of three.[1] It probably moved slowly on all fours and was unable to rear up on its back legs.[1][2] The nearly equal length of the fore and hindlimbs[1] is also suggestive of an obligatorily quadrupedal gait.

No skull was found with the first skeleton of Riojasaurus,[3] although a well-preserved skull attributed to Riojasaurus was found later.[4] The teeth of Riojasaurus were leaf shaped and serrated. The upper jaw contained 5 teeth at the front, with 24 more behind them in a row that ended under the eyes.

Comparisons between the scleral rings of Riojasaurus and modern birds and reptiles suggest that it may have been cathemeral, active throughout the day at short intervals.[5]

Classification[edit]

Many scientists think that Riojasaurus was closely related to Melanorosaurus,[1] the largest prosauropod known from the Triassic-Early Jurassic period. However, studies at Bristol University, England, suggest that it is unique in some key ways, such as the longer bones in its neck. It is certainly quite different from other prosauropods found in the Los Colorados Formation of Argentina.[6]

Riojasaurus, shown in comparison with humans.

Due to their size and limb anatomy Riojasaurus and the possibly related Melanorosaurus have been considered close relatives of the earliest sauropods.[1] However, if the hypothesis proposed by Peter Galton and Paul Sereno is correct -- namely, that prosauropods and true sauropods share a common ancestor rather than the former giving rise to the latter -- then commonalities shared by Riojasaurus and true sauropods are likely due to convergent evolution.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Riojasaurus." 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. 41. ISBN 0-7853-0443-6.
  2. ^ Van Heerden, J. and Galton, P.M. (1997). "The affinities of Melanorosaurus a Late Triassic prosauropod dinosaur from South Africa". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Monatshefte. (1):39-55
  3. ^ Bonaparte, J.F. (1967). Dos nuevas "faunas" de reptiles triásicos de Argentina. Ameghiniana 10(1): 89-102.
  4. ^ Bonaparte, J.F. & Pumares, J.A. (1967). Notas sobre el primer craneo de Riojasaurus incertus (Dinosauria, Prosauropoda, Melanorosauridae) del Triasico Superios de La Rioja, Argentina. Ameghiniana 32(4): 341-349.
  5. ^ Schmitz, L.; Motani, R. (2011). "Nocturnality in Dinosaurs Inferred from Scleral Ring and Orbit Morphology". Science 332 (6030): 705–8. Bibcode:2011Sci...332..705S. doi:10.1126/science.1200043. PMID 21493820. 
  6. ^ Moody, Richard. Dinofile. pg 20. Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2006