Agilisaurus (/ˌædʒɪlɪˈsɔːrəs/; 'agile lizard') is a genus of ornithischian dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic Period of what is now eastern Asia. The name is derived from the Latin "agilis" meaning 'agile' and the Greek "sauros" meaning 'lizard', and refers to the agility suggested by its lightweight skeleton and long legs. Its tibia (lower leg bone) 207.0 mm in length, was longer than its femur (upper leg bone) 199.0 mm in length, which indicates that it was an extremely fast bipedal runner, using its long tail for balance, although it may have walked on all fours when browsing for food. It was a small herbivore, about 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length, and like all ornithischians, it had a beak-like structure on the ends of both upper and lower jaws to help it crop plant material.
|Mounted skeleton at the Zigong museum|
There is one named species (A. louderbacki), named after Dr. George Louderback, an American geologist and the first to recognize dinosaur fossils from the Sichuan Province of China in 1915. Both genus and type species were named by Chinese paleontologist Peng Guangzhou in very brief fashion in 1990, then described in further detail by Peng in 1992.
A single complete skeleton of A. louderbacki is known to science, one of the most complete small ornithischian skeletons ever found. Only a few parts of its left fore limb and hind limb are missing, and those can be reconstructed from their counterparts on the right side.
This skeleton was actually discovered during the construction of the Zigong Dinosaur Museum, in which it is now housed. This museum features many dinosaurs recovered from the famous Dashanpu Quarry outside the city of Zigong, in the Chinese province of Sichuan, including Agilisaurus, as well as Xuanhanosaurus, Shunosaurus, and Huayangosaurus. This quarry preserves sediment from the Lower Shaximiao Formation (sometimes called "Xiashaximiao") which ranges from the Bathonian through Callovian stages of the Middle Jurassic Period, or from about 168 to 161 million years ago.
Despite its completeness, Agilisaurus has been placed in many different positions in the ornithischian family tree. It was originally placed in the family Fabrosauridae, which is no longer considered valid by most paleontologists (Peng 1990).
Several recent studies, including cladistic analyses, find Agilisaurus to be the most basal member of the group Euornithopoda, which includes all ornithopods more derived than the family Heterodontosauridae (Weishampel et al. 2003; Norman et al. 2004).
However, heterodontosaurs are not universally considered to be ornithopods and have been considered more closely related to the suborder Marginocephalia, which includes ceratopsians and pachycephalosaurs. In one recent cladistic analysis, Agilisaurus was found in a position basal to heterodontosaurs in the branch leading to Marginocephalia (Xu et al. 2006).
Agilisaurus has been recovered in other positions as well, including as an ornithischian basal to both ornithopods and marginocephalians (Barrett et al. 2005; Butler 2005; Butler et al. 2008).
In his more thorough 1992 description, Peng added a new species to the genus Agilisaurus. This species had previously been known as Yandusaurus multidens. Because this species did not belong in the genus Yandusaurus and due to similarities with A. louderbacki, it was assigned the name Agilisaurus multidens.
Other scientists were not convinced that this species belonged to either Yandusaurus or Agilisaurus, and in 2005, it was once again reassigned, this time to its own newly created genus. It is now known as Hexinlusaurus multidens (Barrett et al. 2005). Several studies agree that this species is slightly more derived than Agilisaurus (Norman et al. 2004; Barrett et al. 2005; Butler 2005). Both Yandusaurus and Hexinlusaurus were also found in the Dashanpu Quarry.
Comparisons between the scleral rings of Agilisaurus and modern birds and reptiles suggest that it may have been diurnal, unlike larger herbivorous dinosaurs that were inferred to be cathemeral, active throughout the day at short intervals.
Paleontology or palaeontology is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1990.Averostra
Averostra, or "bird snouts", is a clade that includes most theropod dinosaurs that have a promaxillary fenestra (fenestra promaxillaris), an extra opening in the front outer side of the maxilla, the bone that makes up the upper jaw. Two groups of averostrans, the Ceratosauria and the Orionides, survived into the Cretaceous period. When the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event occurred, ceratosaurians and two groups of orionideans within the clade Coelurosauria, the Tyrannosauroidea and Maniraptoriformes, were still extant. Only one subgroup of maniraptoriformes, Aves, survived the extinction event and persisted to the present day.Avetheropoda
Avetheropoda, or "bird theropods", is a clade that includes carnosaurians and coelurosaurs to the exclusion of other dinosaurs.Bathonian
In the geologic timescale the Bathonian is an age and stage of the Middle Jurassic. It lasted from approximately 168.3 Ma to around 166.1 Ma (million years ago). The Bathonian age succeeds the Bajocian age and precedes the Callovian age.Callovian
In the geologic timescale, the Callovian is an age and stage in the Middle Jurassic, lasting between 166.1 ± 4.0 Ma (million years ago) and 163.5 ± 4.0 Ma. It is the last stage of the Middle Jurassic, following the Bathonian and preceding the Oxfordian.Cerapoda
Cerapoda ("ceratopsians and ornithopods") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia.Changchunsaurus
Changchunsaurus (meaning "Changchun lizard") is an extinct genus of small herbivorous parksosaurid dinosaur from Early Cretaceous deposits of Gongzhuling, Jilin, China. It is the first named dinosaur genus from Jilin.Dinosauriformes
Dinosauriformes is a clade of archosaurian reptiles that include the dinosaurs and their most immediate relatives. All dinosauriformes are distinguished by several features, such as shortened forelimbs and a partially to fully perforated acetabulum, the hole in the hip socket traditionally used to define dinosaurs. The oldest known member is Asilisaurus, dating to about 245 million years ago in the Anisian age of the middle Triassic period.Fabrosauridae
The Fabrosauridae is an obsolete group of basal ornithischian dinosaurs from the Early to Middle Jurassic, originally proposed by Galton (1972). Recent studies indicate the Fabrosaurs are not a natural grouping of dinosaurs, and instead consist of unrelated genera.The proposed "Fabrosaurs" descended from a Lesothosaurus-like animal. Proposed fabrosaurids were 1–2 meters long, and were lightly built and bipedal. Their skulls were triangular and had very large eye sockets. They were herbivorous and would have used agility to escape predators.
Fabrosaurids are known from southern Africa in the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic, as well as in China from the Middle and Upper Jurassic periods. Fabrosaurids bear a semblance to many other members of Ornithischia, and have attracted much interest in phylogenetic studies. However, most genera that were previously referred to as Fabrosauridae are only known from fragmented and partial remains, with most based on no more than isolated teeth, and their place in Fabrosauridae is questionable.Galton in 1972 originally proposed the creation of Fabrosauridae based on the finding of cheek teeth. The successive discovery (1990) of a Middle Jurassic primitive ornithischian, Agilisaurus louderbacki, found in the Xiashaximiao Formation of Zigong, Sichuan Basin, China, has led to paleontologists learning more about the phylogeny of fabrosaurids.
Fabrosaurids have many characters that are unique to their physiology, particularly unique tooth morphology and structure, and short forelimb lengths compared to hindlimbs. Unlike many other primitive Ornithischians, such as heterodontosaurids and hypsilophodontids, the teeth of fabrosaurids are very thinly and uniformly enameled. Compared to Agilisaurus, Fabrosaurus is much more primitive in that it has six premaxillary teeth, and a stout prepubis. Agilisaurus differs from Fabrosaurus in that it appears to be larger and more well developed in structure.The Upper Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur, Gongubusaurus, from China, is thought to be more closely related to fabrosaurids than hypsilophodontids. The type species, G. shiyii, is from the Shangshaximiao Formation in the Rongxian County in Sichuan Basin, has been classified from only a few scattered teeth.Hexinlusaurus
Hexinlusaurus is a genus of basal ornithischian dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of China. The holotype (ZDM T6001, Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Dashanpu, People's Republic of China), consists of an almost complete, articulated skull and some postcranial material, collected from a terrestrial sandstone within the Lower Shaximiao Formation (?Bajocian) at the famous dinosaur-bearing quarries at Dashanpu. A paratype (ZDM T6002) consists of a partial skull and postcranial remains. Previously, it had been described as a species of Yandusaurus, Y. multidens (He and Cai, 1983), but was reclassified as a new taxon by Paul M. Barrett, Richard J. Butler and Fabien Knoll in 2005, who diagnosed this anatomically conservative species as follows: "A small ornithischian dinosaur distinguished from all other basal ornithischians by a single autapomorphy, the presence of a marked concavity that extends over the lateral surface of the postorbital." The etymology of the genus name honors Professor He Xin-Lu (from the Chengdu University of Technology) who originally named the specimen as Y. multidens + the Greek sauros (=lizard). Hexinlusaurus was a small, fleet-footed herbivore.
Other dinosaurs known from Dashanpu include the sauropod Shunosaurus, the theropod Gasosaurus, and the stegosaur Huayangosaurus.
Before being officially named Hexinlusaurus, this genus was briefly known under the informal name "Proyandusaurus". This name originally appeared in an abstract attributed to Fabien Knoll, which was apparently published without his consent.Jeholosauridae
Jeholosaurids were herbivorous neornithischian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period (Aptian - Santonian, with a possible Campanian record) of Asia. The family was first proposed by Han et al. in 2012. The jeholosaurids were defined as those ornithischians more closely related to Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis than to Hypsilophodon foxii, Iguanodon bernissartensis, Protoceratops andrewsi, Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, or Thescelosaurus neglectus. The Jeholosauridae includes the type genus Jeholosaurus and Yueosaurus.Jeholosaurus
Jeholosaurus is a genus of ornithischian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period. It is thought to have been a herbivorous small ornithopod.Jingshanosaurus
Jingshanosaurus (meaning "Jingshan lizard") is a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the early Jurassic period.Neornithischia
Neornithischia ("new ornithischians") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia. They are the sister group of the Thyreophora within the clade Genasauria. Neornithischians are united by having a thicker layer of asymmetrical enamel on the inside of their lower teeth. The teeth wore unevenly with chewing and developed sharp ridges that allowed neornithischians to break down tougher plant food than other dinosaurs. Neornithischians include a variety of basal forms historically known as "hypsilophodonts", including the Parksosauridae; in addition, there are derived forms classified in the groups Marginocephalia and Ornithopoda. The former includes clades Pachycephalosauria and Ceratopsia, while the latter typically includes Hypsilophodon and the more derived Iguanodontia.Neotheropoda
Neotheropoda (meaning "new theropods") is a clade that includes coelophysoids and more advanced theropod dinosaurs, and the only group of theropods who survived the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Yet all of the neotheropods became extinct during the early Jurassic period except for Averostra.Orionides
Orionides is a clade of tetanuran theropod dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic to the Present. The clade includes most theropod dinosaurs, including birds.Ornithischia
Ornithischia () is an extinct clade of mainly herbivorous dinosaurs characterized by a pelvic structure similar to that of birds. The name Ornithischia, or "bird-hipped", reflects this similarity and is derived from the Greek stem ornith- (ὀρνιθ-), meaning "of a bird", and ischion (ἴσχιον), plural ischia, meaning "hip joint". However, birds are only distantly related to this group as birds are theropod dinosaurs.Ornithischians with well known anatomical adaptations include the ceratopsians or "horn-faced" dinosaurs (e.g. Triceratops), armored dinosaurs (Thyreophora) such as stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, pachycephalosaurids and the ornithopods. There is strong evidence that certain groups of ornithischians lived in herds, often segregated by age group, with juveniles forming their own flocks separate from adults. Some were at least partially covered in filamentous (hair- or feather- like) pelts, and there is much debate over whether these filaments found in specimens of Tianyulong, Psittacosaurus, and Kulindadromeus may have been primitive feathers.Xiaosaurus
Xiaosaurus ("dawn lizard", ), is a genus of small herbivorous dinosaur from the middle Jurassic, approximately 169 to 163 mya. Xiaosaurus lived in what is now the Sichuan Basin of China.
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.
In 1992 Peng Guangzhao renamed Agilisaurus multidens He & Cai 1983 (now Hexinlusaurus) into a second species of Xiaosaurus: Xiaosaurus multidens, but this has not been accepted.
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.Yandusaurus
Yandusaurus is a genus of herbivorous basal neornithischian dinosaur from the Bathonian age (middle Jurassic, approximately 168 to 162;Ma) of China.