Grandmother of All Sauropods Unearthed

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The first complete skeleton of an early sauropod has been found in China, providing a glimpse of the ancestor of all those colossal, four-legged dinosaurs that came later.

The sauropod, tentatively named Yizhousaurus sunae, lived 200 million years ago on the plains of what is today the Yunnan Province of southern China. Yizhousaurus was 30 feet long and already had the signature sauropod long neck, heavy-duty skeleton and four-legged stance.

But what really makes the case for its pivotal role in the evolution of sauropods is its intact skull, which is an extremely rare find, explained paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University.

"The skull has very, very crucial information about its affinities," Chatterjee said. In the case of Yizhousaurus, the skull is wide, domed, short-snouted and has eye sockets on the sides to make it easier to watch for predators. It also has a broad, U-shaped jaw that looks a lot like those seen in later sauropods.

For more information related to dinosaur fossils, visit dinosaurs.


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