Antetonitrus is a genus of sauropod dinosaur found in Early Jurassic rocks in South Africa. The only species is Antetonitrus ingenipes. As one of the oldest known sauropods, it is crucial for the understanding of the origin and early evolution of this group. It was a quadrupedal herbivore, like all of its later relatives, but shows primitive adaptations to use the forelimbs for grasping, instead of purely for weight support.
Temporal range: Early Jurassic
Yates & Kitching, 2003
Adam Yates, an Australian expert on early sauropodomorphs, named Antetonitrus in a 2003 report co-authored by South African James Kitching. The name is derived from the Latin ante- ("before") and tonitrus ("thunder"), which refers to its existence, before other known sauropods, specifically Brontosaurus ("thunder lizard"). The one known species of Antetonitrus is called A. ingenipes, from the Latin ingens ("massive") and pes ("foot"), because it shows the beginning of the development of feet designed solely to support weight.
The fossils now known as Antetonitrus were discovered by Kitching in 1981 in the Free State of South Africa, and were stored in the Bernard Price Institute where they were labeled as Euskelosaurus. Yates recognized them as a separate taxon and published a description several years later. The holotype, or original specimen, consists of several vertebrae and numerous bones from both forelimb and hind limb, all presumed to be from one individual. Five more limb bones from another smaller individual were also referred to the genus.
The holotype specimen may have measured 8 to 10 m in total body length and was 1.5 to 2 m high at the hips. However, the neural arches of the vertebrae were not fused with the centra, indicating that this individual perhaps was not fully grown.
Antetonitrus shows several features which appear to be similar to those of later sauropods, but still retains some primitive features. Unlike most of its smaller and more lightly built ancestors, Antetonitrus was primarily quadrupedal. Like sauropods, its forelimbs were much longer relative to its hind legs than earlier animals, while the metatarsus was shortened. However, the first digit of the hand, also called the "thumb" or pollex, was still twisted and flexible, capable of grasping against the hand. In more derived sauropods, the wrist bones are large and thick, arranged in such a way as to lock the hand into a permanently pronated position for full-time weight support, and the hand is incapable of grasping.
Antetonitrus already shows adaptations for an increasing body size as seen in all later sauropods: The wrist bones were broader and thicker to support more weight, whereas the femur was elliptical in cross section. The vertebrae bear high neural spines and well developed hyposphene-hypantrum articulations which add rigidity to the trunk. The first toe of the hind foot already bears a large claw longer than the first metatarsal; however, this claw was not sickle shaped as seen in later sauropods. The femur was slightly sigmoidal (S-curved) in lateral view rather than straight as in other sauropods.
A cladistic analysis by Yates and Kitching recognizes Antetonitrus as a basal sauropod, occupying a position between more derived animals such as Isanosaurus or Vulcanodon, and more basal sauropods like Melanorosaurus. The back vertebrae are extremely similar to Lessemsaurus from South America, while the limb bones are similar to Blikanasaurus, another stocky early sauropod from South Africa. However, these animals were not included in a cladistic analysis with Antetonitrus because they are poorly known. Apaldetti et al. (2018) erected Lessemsauridae, a clade containing Antetonitrus, Lessemsaurus and Ingentia. Their cladogram is reproduced below:
While Antetonitrus is not the earliest sauropod from a phylogenetic standpoint, it currently one of the oldest known sauropod chronologically, or rather tied for that distinction with other early sauropods from the same formation, like Melanorosaurus and Blikanasaurus. Fossils of these animals were recovered from the Elliot Formation. Initially it was though to be recovered from the Lower Elliot Formation which dates to the Norian stage of the Late Triassic, or approximately 221 to 210 million years ago. Later studies indicate that it was actually recovered from the Early Jurassic Upper Elliot Formation. Before Antetonitrus and the other animals recovered from the Elliot Formation were recognized as sauropods, the oldest known sauropod had been Isanosaurus from the Rhaetian stage of Thailand.
Early sauropods and their prosauropod relatives were found around the world as all of the continents were at the time united into the single supercontinent, Pangaea, which made dispersal across the entire terrestrial world possible.
The Anchisauria were a clade of sauropodomorph dinosaurs that lived during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. The name Anchisauria was first used by Galton and Upchurch in the second edition of The Dinosauria. Galton and Upchurch assigned two families of dinosaurs to the Anchisauria: the Anchisauridae and the Melanorosauridae. The more common prosauropods Plateosaurus and Massospondylus were placed in the sister clade Plateosauria.
However, recent research indicates that Anchisaurus is closer to sauropods than traditional prosauropods; thus, Anchisauria would also include Sauropoda.The following cladogram simplified after an analysis presented by Blair McPhee and colleagues in 2014.Barapasaurus
Barapasaurus ( bə-RAH-pə-SAWR-əs) is a genus of basal sauropod dinosaur from Early Jurassic rocks of India. The only species is B. tagorei. Barapasaurus comes from the lower part of the Kota Formation, that dates back to the Sinemurian and Pliensbachian stages of the early Jurassic. It is therefore one of the earliest known sauropods. Barapasaurus is known from approximately 300 bones from at least six individuals, so that the skeleton is almost completely known except for the anterior cervical vertebrae and the skull. This makes Barapasaurus one of the most completely known sauropods from the early Jurassic.Blikanasaurus
Blikanasaurus cromptoni is a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaur from the late Triassic of South Africa. The generic name Blikanasaurus is derived from Greek, meaning “lizard from Blikana.” The species name cromptoni is taken from the surname of A.W. “Fuzz” Crompton, an American paleontologist who led numerous field expeditions in Elliot Formation outcrop localities in South Africa. Blikanasaurus is only known from partial hindlimb bones that were recovered from the lower Elliot Formation (LEF) in the Eastern Cape.Chinshakiangosaurus
Chinshakiangosaurus (JIN-shah-jiahng-uh-SOR-us, meaning "Chinshakiang lizard") is a genus of dinosaur and probably one of the most basal sauropods known. The only species, Chinshakiangosaurus chunghoensis, is known from a fragmentary skeleton found in Lower Jurassic rocks in China. Chinshakiangosaurus is one of the few basal sauropods with preserved skull bones and therefore important for the understanding of the early evolution of this group. It shows that early sauropods may have possessed fleshy cheeks.Clarens, Free State
Clarens is a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State province of South Africa and nicknamed the "Jewel of the Eastern Free State". It was established in 1912 and named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland where exiled Paul Kruger spent his last days. It is situated 336 km from Johannesburg, 284 km from Bloemfontein, 389 km from Durban.Ferganasaurus
Ferganasaurus was a genus of dinosaur first formally described in 2003 by Alifanov and Averianov. The type species is Ferganasaurus verzilini. It was a sauropod similar to Rhoetosaurus. The fossils were discovered in 1966 in Kyrgyzstan from the Balabansai Formation and date to the Callovian stage of the Middle Jurassic.Flagellicaudata
Flagellicaudata is a clade of Dinosauria. It belongs to Sauropoda and includes two families, the Dicraeosauridae and the Diplodocidae.Gongxianosaurus
Gongxianosaurus is a genus of basal sauropod dinosaur from the early Jurassic Period (Toarcian stage). The only species is Gongxianosaurus shibeiensis. Based on four fragmentary to complete specimens found in China (Sichuan Province), it is one of the most completely known early sauropods. The skeleton is known in large part, missing both the hand and the majority of the skull. Gongxianosaurus was firstly named and described in a short note published in 1998; however, a comprehensive description has yet to be published. Gongxianosaurus shibeiensis was named for the place it was found, near the village Shibei in Gong County (珙县; Pinyin: Gǒng Xiàn).Gravisauria
Gravisauria is a clade of sauropod dinosaurs consisting of some genera, Vulcanodontidae and Eusauropoda.Huangshanlong
Huangshanlong is a genus of mamenchisaurid dinosaurs native to the Anhui province of China. It contains a single species, Huangshanlong anhuiensis. H. anhuiensis represents, along with Anhuilong and Wannanosaurus, one of three dinosaurs fround in Anhui province.Isanosaurus
Isanosaurus (meaning "Isan [north-eastern Thailand] lizard") was one of the first sauropod dinosaurs. It lived approximately 210 million years ago during the Late Triassic (late Norian to Rhaetian stages) in Thailand. The only species is Isanosaurus attavipachi. Though important for the understanding of sauropod origin and early evolution, Isanosaurus is poorly known. Exact relationships to other early sauropods remain unresolved.Kaijutitan
Kaijutitan (meaning "Kaiju titan" after the type of Japanese movie monsters) is a genus of basal titanosaur dinosaur from the Sierra Barrosa Formation from Neuquén Province in Argentina. The type and only species is Kaijutitan maui.Kotasaurus
Kotasaurus ( KOH-tə-SAWR-əs; meaning "Kota Formation lizard") is a genus of sauropod dinosaur from the Early Jurassic period (Sinemurian–Pliensbachian). The only known species is Kotasaurus yamanpalliensis. It was discovered in the Kota Formation of Telangana, India and shared its habitat with the related Barapasaurus. So far the remains of at least 12 individuals are known. The greater part of the skeleton is known, but the skull is missing, with the exception of two teeth. Like all sauropods, it was a large, quadrupedal herbivore with long neck and tail.Ledumahadi
Ledumahadi (meaning "a giant thunderclap" in Sesotho language) is a genus of lessemsaurid sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic Elliot Formation in Free State Province, South Africa. The type and only species is L. mafube, known from a singular incomplete postcranial specimen. A quadruped, it was one of the first giant sauropodomorphs, reaching a weight of around 12 tonnes (26,000 lb), despite not having evolved columnar limbs like its later huge relatives.Shunosaurus
Shunosaurus, meaning "shu lizard", is a genus of sauropod dinosaur from Early Jurassic (Oxfordian) beds in Sichuan Province in China, approximately 159±2 million years ago. The name derives from "Shu", an ancient name for the Sichuan province.Tambatitanis
Tambatitanis is an extinct genus of titanosauriform dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous (probably early Albian) of Japan. It is known from a single type species, Tambatitanis amicitiae. It was probably around 14 meters long and its mass was estimated at some 4 tonnes. It was a basal titanosauriform and possibly belonged to the Euhelopodidae.Xingxiulong
Xingxiulong (meaning "Xingxiu Bridge dragon") is a genus of bipedal sauropodiform from the Early Jurassic of China. It contains a single species, X. chengi, described by Wang et al. in 2017 from three specimens, two adults and an immature individual, that collectively constitute a mostly complete skeleton. Adults of the genus measured 4–5 metres (13–16 ft) long and 1–1.5 metres (3 ft 3 in–4 ft 11 in) tall. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that Xingxiulong is most closely related to its contemporary Jingshanosaurus, although an alternative position outside of both the Sauropodiformes and Massospondylidae is also plausible.
Despite their close relationship, Xingxiulong prominently differs from Jingshanosaurus - and from most basal sauropodomorphs - in having a number of sauropod-like traits. These include a sacrum containing four vertebrae; a pubis with an exceptionally long top portion; and the femur, the first and fifth metatarsals on the foot, and the scapula being wide and robust. These probably represent adaptations to supporting high body weight, in particular a large gut. Unlike sauropods, however, Xingxiulong would still have been bipedal.