Temporal range: Middle Jurassic
Dong & Tang, 1983
Dong & Tang, 1983
In 1979 and 1980, two specimens were discovered of a small herbivorous dinosaur during excavations near Dashanpu in Sichuan. In 1983 Dong Zhiming and Tang Zilu named the fossils under the type species Xiaosaurus dashanpensis. The generic name is derived from Chinese xiáo, 曉, "dawn", a reference to the age of the fossil. The specific name refers to Danshanpu.
The holotype, IVPP V6730A, was found in the lower Xiashaximiao Formation of which the age is uncertain: both the Bajocian and the Bathonian–Callovian have been proposed. It consists of a partial skeleton including a jaw fragment with a single tooth, two cervical vertebrae, four caudal vertebrae, a humerus, a partial left femur and a complete right hindlimb. The paratype IVPP V6730B is a second partial skeleton including a right femur, a dorsal vertebra, two sacral vertebrae, a phalanx, a rib and two teeth.
Xiaosaurus was a small bipedal animal with an estimated length of one metre. The femur is 11 centimetres (4.3 in) long.
The remains are too fragmentary to easily classify the genus. The describers assigned it both to the Fabrosauridae and the Hypsilophodontidae, considering it an evolutionary link between Lesothosaurus and Hypsilophodon. Xiaosaurus has sometimes been considered a nomen dubium and an ornithischian of uncertain affinities, possibly a basal cerapod or marginocephalian. However, Paul Barrett et al. in 2005 concluded it to be provisionally valid, as it possessed a single unique derived trait or autapomorphy: a mediolaterally (seen from the front) straight humerus.
- Dong Z. & Tang Z., 1983, "New ornithopod genus from the Middle Jurassic of Sichuan Basin, China", Vertebrata PalAsiatica 21(2): 168-171
- Peng, G.-Z., 1992, [Chinese:] [Jurassic ornithopod Agilisaurus louderbacki (Ornithopoda: Fabrosauridae) from Zigong, Sichuan, China]. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 30: 39–53
- Barrett, P.M., Butler, R.J., and Knoll, F. 2005. Small-bodied ornithischian dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic of Sichuan, China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 25(4):823-834