Temporal range: Late Triassic, 216.5–189.6 Ma
|Life restoration of M. readi|
Melanorosaurus (meaning "Black Mountain Lizard", from the Greek melas/μέλας, "black", oros/ὄρος, "mountain" + sauros/σαῦρος, "lizard"), is a genus of basal sauropodomorph dinosaur that lived during the Late Triassic period. A herbivore from South Africa, it had a large body and sturdy limbs, suggesting it moved about on all fours. Limb bones were massive and weighty, like sauropod limb bones.
Discovery and species
The type specimens, syntypes SAM 3449 and SAM 3450, were described and named in 1924 by Sidney Henry Haughton. They were collected from the Triassic Lower Elliot Formation, dating to the early Norian, on the north slope of the Thaba 'Nyama (Black Mountain) in Transkei, South Africa. The first complete skull of Melanorosaurus was described in 2007. Two species are known: M. readi, the type species, and M. thabanensis named in 1993 by François-Xavier Gauffre, based on holotype MNHN LES-16, a femur found in the Jurassic Upper Elliot Formation.
Melanorosaurus was once classified as a prosauropod, but Prosauropoda no longer appears to be a natural group. According to some definitions of Sauropoda, Melanorosaurus is an early sauropod. However, these definitions also take in many other former "prosauropods", and Adam Yates has proposed a definition of Sauropoda that will specifically exclude Melanorosaurus (Sauropoda as all sauropodomorphs closer to Saltasaurus than Melanorosaurus). This definition would allow Sauropoda to retain its traditional concept.
Melanorosaurus had a skull which measured approximately 250 mm. The snout was somewhat pointed, and the skull was somewhat triangular when seen from above or below. The premaxilla had four teeth on each side, a characteristic of primitive sauropodomorphs. The maxilla had 19 teeth on each side of the jaw.
Melanorosaurus was around 8 metres (26 ft) long, with a weight of 1.3 metric tons (1.3 long tons).
- S.H. Haughton, 1924, "The fauna and stratigraphy of the Stormberg Series", Annals of the South African Museum 12 : 323-497
- Yates, Adam M., "The first complete skull of the Triassic dinosaur Melanorosaurus Haughton (Sauropodomorpha: Anchisauria)". In Barrett & Batten (eds.), Evolution and Palaeobiology (2007), pp. 9–55.
- F.-X. Gauffre, 1993, "The most recent Melanorosauridae (Saurischia, Prosauropoda), Lower Jurassic of Lesotho, with remarks on the prosauropod phylogeny", Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Monatshefte 1993(11): 648-654
- Yates, Adam M. (2010). "A revision of the problematic sauropodomorph dinosaurs from Manchester, Connecticut and the status of Anchisaurus Marsh". Palaeontology 53 (4): 739–752. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00952.x.
- Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 170