Peyre de Fabrègues & Allain, 2016
In 1959, François Ellenberger, Paul Ellenberger, Jean Fabre and Leonard Ginsburg discovered the type specimen, a thighbone or femur and other assorted bones, south of the village of Thabana Morena. In 1962 these were addressed in a thesis by D. Costedoat. The exact location the bones were recovered, is today unknown.
In 1993, François-Xavier Gauffre assigned the remains to a second species of Melanorosaurus: Melanorosaurus thabanensis. The description was provisional, and in 1997 the fossil was described in more detail in a publication by Jacques van Heerden and Peter Malcolm Galton. The specific name refers to the site Thabana-Morena in Lesotho.
Gauffre assumed that the specimen had been found in the Upper Elliot Formation dating from the Hettangian-Sinemurian and thus was about twenty million year younger than Melanorosaurus readi. In 1996, he revised the date to the Lower Elliot Formation of the late Triassic in his non-published dissertation. He also referred the thighbone to a new genus and species Kholumolumosaurus ellenbergerorum. This remained a non-valid nomen ex dissertatione, as the name would never be published; furthermore the type material of this species does not coincide with that of M. thabanensis.
In 2016, M. thabanensis was appointed to the separate genus Meroktenos by Claire Peyre de Fabrègues and Ronan Allain. The genus name is a combination of ancient Greek μηρός, meros ("thigh") and κτῆνος, ktènos ("beast"). The combinatio nova thus becomes Meroktenos thabanensis, the type species is the original Melanorosaurus thabanensis.
The holotype, MNHN.F.LES 16, consists of a right thighbone (MNHN.F.LES16c), a portion of the right ilium, with a piece of a vertebral neural arch (MNHN.F.LES16a); a left pubic bone (MNHN.F.LES16b); and a second right metatarsal (MNHN.F.LES16d) associated with the skeleton. In 2016, a new specimen, MNHN.F.LES351, was referred to the species; consisting of a cervical vertebra, a left ulna and a, probably left, radius. It might have belonged to the same individual as the holotype, but this cannot be strictly proven.
Meroktenos has a femur length of around forty-eight centimeters, suggesting a body length of about four meters.
In 2016, a revised list of distinguishing traits was given. The blade height of the ilium, measured from the highest point of the antitrochanter to the upper edge of the blade is 60% of the total height of the ilium, including peduncles. The rear blade of the ilium is roughly triangular in side view. The femur is very compact with a robusticity index, length divided by the circumference of the shaft, of 2.09. The femur has a straight shaft in both side and front views. The femoral shaft is substantially wider transversely than it is wide in side view, with a ratio of 1.58. On the rear of the femoral shaft, the fourth trochanter is oriented obliquely, running from the upper and inner side to the lower and outer side.
In 2016, Meroktenos was placed in the Sauropodomorpha, in a basal position. According to a cladistic analysis, Meroktenos formed a polytomy with Blikanasaurus and more derived species, above Aardonyx in the evolutionary tree and below a polytomy including Melanorosaurus and Antetonitrus.
The relative transverse width of the femur, the eccentricity, is remarkably high for such a small animal. These proportions were known previously only from Sauropoda and explained as an adaptation to a very high absolute weight. Because the holotype probably was not a young animal and is unlikely to have attained giant proportions, the trait must have had a different function.
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.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.Cerapoda
Cerapoda ("ceratopsians and ornithopods") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia.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.Haya griva
Haya is an extinct genus of basal neornithischian dinosaur known from Mongolia.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.Jingshanosaurus
Jingshanosaurus (meaning "Jingshan lizard") is a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the early Jurassic period.Melanorosauridae
The Melanorosauridae were a family of sauropodomorph dinosaurs which lived during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. The name Melanorosauridae was first coined by Friedrich von Huene in 1929. Huene assigned several families of dinosaurs to the infraorder "Prosauropoda": the Anchisauridae, the Plateosauridae, the Thecodontosauridae, and the Melanorosauridae. Since then, these families have undergone numerous revisions. Galton and Upchurch (2004) considered Camelotia, Lessemsaurus, and Melanorosaurus members of the family Melanorosauridae. A more recent study by Yates (2007) indicates that the melanorosaurids were instead early sauropods.Melanorosaurus
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. Its limb bones were massive and weighty, like sauropod limb bones.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.Orodrominae
Orodrominae is a subfamily of parksosaurid dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of North America and Asia.Raeticodactylidae
Raeticodactylidae is a family of eudimorphodontoid eopterosaurian pterosaurs that lived in Switzerland during the Late Triassic. The family includes Caviramus, and the type genus Raeticodactylus, which are both known from the Kössen Formation, around 205 mya. Raeticodactylidae was first used in 2014 by Andres et al., as a group of all pterosaurs closer to Raeticodactylus than Eudimorphodon. The following phylogenetic analysis follows the topology of Andres et al. (2014).Riojasauridae
Riojasauridae is a family of sauropod-like dinosaurs from the Upper Triassic. It is known primarily from the genera Riojasaurus and Eucnemesaurus. Sites containing Riojasauridae include the Lower Elliot Formation of Orange Free State, South Africa (where fossils of Eucnemesaurus have been found), and Ischigualasto, in La Rioja Province, Argentina ( where fossils of Riojasaurus have been recovered).Unaysauridae
Unaysauridae is a family of basal sauropodomorphs from the Late Triassic of India and Brazil.Xixiposaurus
Xixiposaurus is a genus of prosauropod dinosaur which existed in what is now Lower Lufeng Formation, China during the lower Jurassic period. It was first named by Sekiya Toru in 2010 and the type species is Xixiposaurus suni.Yueosaurus
Yueosaurus is an extinct genus of basal ornithopod dinosaur known from Zhejiang Province, China.