Skip to main content Accessibility help

A primitive sauropodomorph from the upper Elliot Formation of Lesotho

  • F. KNOLL (a1)

A well-preserved, articulated dinosaur skeleton from southern Africa is described. The specimen comes from the upper Elliot Formation (?Hettangian) of Ha Ralekoala (Lesotho) and represents a new species: Ignavusaurus rachelis genus et species nova. A cladistic analysis suggests that Ignavusaurus is more derived than Thecodontosaurus–Pantydraco, but more primitive than Efraasia. Ignavusaurus indeed shares a number of unambiguous synapomorphies with the taxa more derived than Thecodontosaurus–Pantydraco, such as a fully open acetabulum, but it is more plesiomorphic than Efraasia and more derived sauropodomorphs as shown by the evidence of, for instance, the distal extremity of its tibia that is is longer (cranio-caudally) than wide (latero-medially). The discovery of Ignavusaurus increases the known diversity of the early sauropodomorph fauna of the upper Elliot Formation, which stands as one of the richest horizons in the world in this respect.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Anderson, J. F., Hall-Martin, A. & Russell, D. A. 1985. Long-bone circumference and weight in mammals, birds and dinosaurs. Journal of Zoology, Series A 207, 5361.
Barrett, P. M. 2000. Prosauropod dinosaurs and iguanas: speculations on the diets of extinct reptiles. In Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates: Perspectives from the Fossil Record (ed. Sues, H.-D.), pp. 4278. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barrett, P. M. 2004. Sauropodomorph dinosaur diversity in the upper Elliot Formation (Massospondylus range zone: Lower Jurassic) of South Africa. South African Journal of Science 100, 501–3.
Barrett, P. M. 2009. A new basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the upper Elliot Formation (Lower Jurassic) of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29, 1032–45.
Barrett, P. M. & Upchurch, P. 2007. The evolution of feeding mechanisms in early sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology 77, 91112.
Barrett, P. M., Upchurch, P., Zhou, X.-D. & Wang, X.-L. 2007. The skull of Yunnanosaurus huangi Young, 1942 (Dinosauria: Prosauropoda) from the Lower Lufeng Formation (Lower Jurassic) of Yunnan, China. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 150, 319–41.
Barrett, P. M. & Yates, A. M. 2006. New information on the palate and lower jaw of Massospondylus (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha). Palaeontologia Africana 41, 123–30.
Bonaparte, J. F. & Pumares, J. A. 1995. Notas sobre el primer cráneo de Riojasaurus incertus (Dinosauria, Prosauropoda, Melanosauridae) del Triásico superior de La Rioja, Argentina. Ameghiniana 32, 341–9.
Bonaparte, J. F. & Vince, M. 1979. El hallazgo del primer nido de dinosaurios triasicos, (Saurischia, Prosauropoda), Triásico superior de Patagonia, Argentina. Ameghiniana 16, 173–82.
Broom, R. 1911. On the dinosaurs of the Stormberg, South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum 7, 291308.
Calendini, F. & Martin, J.-F. 2005. PaupUP: A free graphical frontend for Paup* Dos software. Version Montpellier: J.-F. Martin.
Callison, G. & Quimby, H. M. 1984. Tiny dinosaurs: are they fully grown? Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 3, 200–9.
Chinsamy, A. 1993. Bone histology and growth trajectory of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus Owen. Modern Geology 18, 319–29.
Chinsamy-Turan, A. 2005. The Microstructure of Dinosaur Bone: Deciphering Biology with Fine-scale Techniques. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 195 pp.
Colbert, E. H. 1964. Relationships of the saurischian dinosaurs. American Museum Novitates 2181, 124.
Cooper, M. R. 1981. The prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus Owen from Zimbabwe: its biology, mode of life and phylogenetic significance. Occasional Papers of the National Museums and Monuments, Rhodesia, Series B 6, 689840.
Galton, P. M. 1976. Prosauropod dinosaurs (Reptilia: Saurischia) of North America. Postilla 169, 198.
Galton, P. M. 1990. Basal Sauropodomorpha – Prosauropoda. In The Dinosauria (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.), pp. 320–44. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Galton, P. M. 1999. Sex, sacra and Sellosaurus gracilis (Saurischia, Sauropodomorpha, Upper Triassic, Germany) – or why the character “two sacral vertebrae” is plesiomorphic for Dinosauria. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 213, 1955.
Galton, P. M. & Upchurch, P. 2004. Prosauropoda. In The Dinosauria. Second Edition (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.), pp. 232–58. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Galton, P. M., Van Heerden, J. & Yates, A. M. 2005. Postcranial anatomy of referred specimens of the sauropodomorph dinosaur Melanorosaurus from the Upper Triassic of South Africa. In Thunder-Lizards: the Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs (eds Tidwell, V. & Carpenter, K.), pp. 137. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Galton, P. M., Yates, A. M. & Kermack, D. 2007. Pantydraco n. gen. for Thecodontosaurus caducus Yates, 2003, a basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Upper Triassic or Lower Jurassic of South Wales, UK. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 243, 119–25.
Gauffre, F.-X. 1993. The most recent Melanorosauridae (Saurischia, Prosauroda), Lower Jurassic of Lesotho, with remarks on the prosauropod phylogeny. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte 11, 648–54.
Gow, C. E., Kitching, J. W. & Raath, M. A. 1990. Skulls of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus Owen in the collections of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research. Palaeontologia Africana 27, 4558.
Haughton, S. H. 1924. The fauna and stratigraphy of the Stormberg Series. Annals of the South African Museum 12, 323497.
Huene, F. von. 1932. Die fossile Reptil-Ordnung Saurischia, ihre Entwicklung und Geschichte. Monographien für Geologie und Paläontologie 4, 1361.
Irmis, R. B. 2007. Axial skeleton ontogeny in the Parasuchia (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia) and its implications for ontogenetic determination in archosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27, 350–61.
Irmis, R. B. & Knoll, F. 2008. New ornithischian dinosaur material from the Lower Jurassic Lufeng Formation of China. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 247, 117–28.
Knoll, F. 2005. The tetrapod fauna of the Upper Elliot and Clarens formations in the main Karoo Basin (South Africa and Lesotho). Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 176, 8191.
Kutty, T. S., Chatterjee, S., Galton, P. M. & Upchurch, P. 2007. Basal sauropodomorphs (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from the Lower Jurassic of India: their anatomy and relationships. Journal of Paleontology 81, 1552–74.
Langer, M. C. 2003. The pelvic and hind limb anatomy of the stem-sauropodomorph Saturnalia tupiniquim (Late Triassic, Brazil). PaleoBios 23, 140.
Langer, M. C., Ezcurra, M. D., Bittencourt, J. S. & Novas, F. E. 2009. The origin and early evolution of dinosaurs. Biological Reviews 84, 156.
Martinez, R. N. & Alcober, O. A. 2009. A basal sauropodomorph (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from the Ischigualasto Formation (Triassic, Carnian) and the early evolution of Sauropodomorpha. PLoS One 4, e4397.
Moser, M. 2003. Plateosaurus engelhardti Meyer, 1837 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) aus dem Feuerletten (Mittelkeuper; Obertrias) von Bayern. Zitteliana, Reihe B 24, 3186.
Owen, R. 1842. Report on British Fossil Reptiles. Part II. Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1841, pp. 60–204. Plymouth, England.
Owen, R. 1854. Descriptive catalogue of the fossil organic remains of Reptilia and Pisces contained in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. London: Taylor and Francis, 184 pp.
Pol, D. & Powell, J. E. 2005. Anatomy and phylogenetic relationships of Mussaurus patagonicus (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha) from the Late Triassic of Patagonia. In II Congreso Latinoamericano de Paleontología de Vertebrados: Boletim de Resumos (eds Kellner, A. W. A., Henriques, D. D. R. & Rodrigues, T.), pp. 208–9. Rio de Janeiro: Museu Nacional.
Pol, D. & Powell, J. E. 2007. Skull anatomy of Mussaurus patagonicus (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the Late Triassic of Patagonia. Historical Biology 19, 125–44.
Raath, M. A. 1972 Fossil vertebrate studies in Rhodesia: a new dinosaur (Reptilia: Saurischia) from near the Triassic–Jurassic boundary. Arnoldia 5, 137.
Reisz, R. R., Scott, D., Sues, H.-D., Evans, D. C. & Raath, M. A. 2005. Embryos of an Early Jurassic prosauropod dinosaur and their evolutionary significance. Science 309, 761–4.
Ricqlès, A. de, Padian, K., Knoll, F. & Horner, J. R. 2008. On the origin of high growth rates in archosaurs and their ancient relatives: complementary histological studies on Triassic archosauriforms and the problem of a “phylogenetic signal” in bone histology. Annales de Paléontologie 94, 5776.
Seeley, H. G. 1888. On the classification of the fossil animals commonly named Dinosauria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 43, 165–71.
Sereno, P. C. 1998. A rationale for phylogenetic definitions, with application to the higher level taxonomy of Dinosauria. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 210, 4183.
Sereno, P. C. 2007. Basal Sauropodomorpha: historical and recent phylogenetic hypotheses, with comments on Ammosaurus major (Marsh, 1889). Special Papers in Palaeontology 77, 261–89.
Smith, N. D. & Pol, D. 2007. Anatomy of a basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic Hanson Formation of Antarctica. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 52, 657–74.
Sues, H.-D., Reisz, R. R., Hinic, S. & Raath, M. A. 2004. On the skull of Massospondylus carinatus Owen, 1854 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the Elliot and Clarens formations (Lower Jurassic) of South Africa. Annals of Carnegie Museum 73, 239–57.
Swofford, D. L. 2001. PAUP*: Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony (*and other methods). Version 4.0b10. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.
Upchurch, P. 1997. Prosauropoda. In Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs (eds Currie, P. J. & Padian, K.), pp. 599606. San Diego: Academic Press.
Upchurch, P., Barrett, P. M. & Galton, P. M. 2007. A phylogenetic analysis of basal sauropodomorph relationships: implications for the origin of sauropod dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology 77, 5790.
Upchurch, P., Barrett, P. M., Zhao, X. & Xu, X. 2007. A re-evaluation of Chinshakiangosaurus chunghoensis Ye vide Dong 1992 (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha): implications for cranial evolution in basal sauropod dinosaurs. Geological Magazine 144, 247–62.
Van Heerden, J. 1979. The morphology and taxonomy of Euskelosaurus (Reptilia: Saurischia: Late Triassic) from South Africa. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum Bloemfontein 4, 2184.
Vasconcelos, C. C. & Yates, A. M. 2004. Sauropodomorph biodiversity of the upper Elliot Formation (Lower Jurassic) of southern Africa. In Geoscience Africa 2004: Abstract Volume (ed. Ashwal, L. D.), p. 670. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.
Whiteside, D. I. & Marshall, J. E. A. 2008. The age, fauna and palaeoenvironment of the Late Triassic fissure deposits of Tytherington, South Gloucestershire, UK. Geological Magazine 145, 105–47.
Wilson, J. A. & Sereno, P. C. 1998. Early evolution and higher-level phylogeny of sauropod dinosaurs. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 5, 168.
Yates, A. M. 2003. A new species of the primitive dinosaur Thecodontosaurus (Saurischia: Sauropodomorpha) and its implications for the systematics of early dinosaurs. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 1, 142.
Yates, A. M. 2007 a. Solving a dinosaurian puzzle: the identity of Aliwalia rex Galton. Historical Biology 19, 93123.
Yates, A. M. 2007 b. The first complete skull of the Triassic dinosaur Melanorosaurus Haughton (Sauropodomorpha:Anchisauria). Special Papers in Palaeontology 77, 955.
Yates, A. M., Bonnan, M. F. & Neveling, J. 2007. A new diverse dinosaur assemblage from the Early Jurassic of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27 (3, supplement), 169A.
Yates, A. M., Hancox, P. J. & Rubidge, B. S. 2004. First record of a sauropod dinosaur from the upper Elliot Formation (Early Jurassic) of South Africa. South African Journal of Science 100, 504–6.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Geological Magazine
  • ISSN: 0016-7568
  • EISSN: 1469-5081
  • URL: /core/journals/geological-magazine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed