Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sauropod Vertebrate Pictures Of the Year- Zhao's nomina nuda

Happy New Year!  In celebration, here's a rare sauropod post. Tired of other sauropod picture blogs that show you common taxa like Giraffatitan or the tons of Morrison genera?  Well here are three of the most poorly known sauropods that have ever been pictured, thanks to the copy of The Jurassic System of China I got for Christmas.  I can stumble through with OCR and Babelfish, but if anyone reading can read Chinese, I'd be grateful if you'd translate the 3.5 pages of text for me.  These are the only available photos of the taxa as far as I know.  Feast your eyes upon...

[Thanks to Leo Sham for his amazingly fast and detailed work translating the paper for me.  It and some further research- to be expanded upon in upcoming posts- shows some of what I wrote below was incorrect. Hopefully Wikipedia is quick to re-update *innocent whistling*]

"Lancangjiangosaurus cachuensis"

Supposed tooth teeth of "Lancangjiangosaurus cachuensis", magnified x1/10, so the photographed area is actually 50x90 cm across.  Seems too big to show a tooth, so something may be wrong.  After Zhao (1985).
I think this beats Bruhathkayosaurus and Malkani's taxa/rocks as the worst illustration for a new taxon.  And yes, that's a high quality scan from the original paper, not a bad photocopy.  According to my translation of the caption, it's a tooth in situ.  [Actually, it's multiple teeth] Fang et al. (2006) lists it as "Lanchangjiangosaurus cachuensis", which may end up being its name since Zhao is a coauthor.  Zhao (1985) states it is very close to Cetiosaurus.  It's from the Middle Jurassic Dapuka Group in Xinjiang Tibet, China.  This is also where "Microdontosaurus dayensis" comes from, which is said by Zhao to be a primitive member of Kuhn's discredited group Homalosauropodoidea (peg-toothed taxa, so diplodocids and titanosaurids). 

"Damalasaurus laticostalis"

"Damalasaurus laticostalis" dorsal rib in field, magnified x1/13, so the area is about 135x117 cm.  After Zhao (1985).
Well that's an improvement.  The caption confirms it's a dorsal rib, though it seems like a comparatively useless element to photograph.  Note the text lists it as "Damalasaurus magnus", Zhang and Li (1997) list both "D. magnus" and "D. magnas", and Fang et al. (2006) lists "D. laticostalis".  Since Zhao is a coauthor of the latter paper, I'm betting "laticostalis" is the "correct" species name.  It's noted to be a primitive sauropod, as also stated by Zhao in his earlier (1983) paper.  "Damalasaurus" comes from the Early Jurassic Middle Daye Group of Xizang, China.

"Dachungosaurus yunnanensis"

"Dachungosaurus yunnanensis" partial skeleton in field, magnified x1/25, so the area is 2.3x1.5 m.  That would make the femur ~955 mm and each dorsal vertebra ~118 mm.  After Zhao (1985).
Finally, a good recognizable skeleton.  At least nine dorsal vertebrae with associated ribs, and a femur.  It's spelled "Dachongosaurus yunnanensis" in the text, but "Dachungosaurus yunnanensis" in the plate caption.  This taxon actually seems to be more obscure than even other Zhao nomina nuda like those shown above, since it's not listed or even alluded to in Zhao (1983), Zhang and Li (1997), Weishampel et al. (2004) or Fang et al. (2006).  It's generally assumed to be Jurassic because the article is about Jurassic faunas, and from Yunnan based on the species name.  Lambert (1990) listed it as a cetiosaurid.  The only other technical reference said to mention it is Li (1998), who Ford (Paleofile) said had it in a faunal list.  Ford doesn't list a Li, 1998 reference though he does list a Li et al., 1998 reference which is a book I do not have.

So, to shed some light on "Dachongosaurus", I've OCRd the sentences about it (via the tedious but generally functional COCR2 program) and found out it was discovered by He Zhou in the (Sinemurian, Early Jurassic) Dark Red Beds of the Lower Lufeng Series of Yunnan, and is said to be a primitive sauropod with some advanced features.  Right there is more valid information on the taxon than has ever appeared in English before. :)

"Kunmingosaurus utingensis"

Proximal caudal vertebrae, chevrons, ilium, pubis and hindlimb of "Kunmingosaurus utingensis" as mounted, magnified x1/11 so the femur is ~847 mm.  After Zhao (1985).
The most well photographed of the bunch is also unfortunately the one already known from photographs of the mounted skeleton online and an illustrated dentary in Dong's (1992) book.  The text lists it as "Kunmingosaurus wudingi" and it's from the Early Jurassic Fengjiahe Formation [well, the separation of the Fengjiahe from the Lower Lufeng seems based solely on geography, and I'm not sure yet where Wuding is compared to Chinkshakiangosaurus' Yongren locality; in any case Zhao and most other workers call Kunmingosaurus' stratum Lower Lufeng] of Yunnan along with the possibly synonymous Chinshakiangosaurus (whose femur as photographed by Zhao is shown below; only the dentary has been illustrated otherwise since the rest is in storage [Dong (1992) also illustrated a cervical]).

Femur of Chinshakiangosaurus chunghoensis (IVPP V14474).  Magnified x1/6, so it is ~1004 mm long.  After Zhao, 1985.

Also, I can use this time to clear up the situation of "Oshanosaurus youngi", which is usually said to either be a sauropod or ornithischian.  Now I see this confusion arose because it is discussed in the same sentence as Dianchungosaurus "elegans" (note it is not the supposed heterodontosaurid D. lufengensis, the holotype of which turned out to be a mesoeucrocodylian).  Both are said to be sauropods by Zhao, and are also from the Fengjiahe Formation.  [Ah, bad translations.... Both are from the Lower Lufeng Formation, and Dianchungosaurus "elegans" is stated to be a heterodontosaurid while "Oshanosaurus" is a primitive sauropod]

References- Zhao, 1983. Phylogeny and evolutionary stages of Dinosauria. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 28(1-2), 295-306.

Zhao (as Chao), 1985. The reptilian fauna of the Jurassic in China. In Wang, Cheng and Wang (eds.). The Jurassic System of China. Geological Publishing House, Beijing. pp 286-289, 347, plates 10 and 11.

Lambert, 1990. The Dinosaur Data Book. New York: Avon Books, 66. ISBN 0-380-75896-3.

Zhang and Li, 1997. Mesozoic Dinosaur Localities in China and Their Stratigraphy. In Wolberg, Sump and Rosenberg (eds.). Dinofest International, Proceedings of a Symposium sponsered by Arizona State University. A Publication of The Academy of Natural Sciences. 265-273. 

Li, Zhang and Cai, 1998. The characteristics of the composition of the trace elements in Jurassic dinosaur bones and Red Beds in Sichuan Basin. Geological Publishing House, Beijing. 155 pp.

Weishampel, Barrett, Coria, Le Loeuff, Xu, Zhao, Sahni, Gomani and Noto, 2004. Dinosaur Distribution. in Weishampel, Dodson and Osmolska, 2004. The Dinosauria: Second Edition.

Fang, Zhang, Lu, Han, Zhao and Li, 2006. Collision between the Indian Plate and the paleo-Asian late and the appearance of Asian dinosaurs. Geological Bulletin of China. 25(7), 862-873.

Ford, online.


  1. I am deeply impressed by the Lancangjiangosaurus tooth figure. Never seen anything like it. Thanks for bringing it to the wider audience that it so richly deserves.

  2. Thank you very much for the article, really interested me get the measurements and images. I am very pleased to see when you think of theropod dinosaurs that are not from time to time, as seriously, I have much to learn from your observations.

    On the other hand, I wonder if you can add a Tyrannosaurus lanpingi or lanpingensis of the same work, because I think it would be the largest theropods of the Neocomian.

    Another genre is very poorly presented Hanwulosaurus ... promises to be one of the largest ever discovered Ankylosauria.

  3. One thing I learned from getting Zhao's 1985 paper is that my website is wrong in stating Tyrannosaurus "lanpingi" is in it. It turns out Zhao had a 1986 paper in the following volume on Cretaceous China, and that's where "lanpingi" and "Megacervixosaurus tibetensis" were named. It may also be where Microvenator "chagyabi" and Monkonosaurus' species name originated, as those are also Zhao Cretaceous taxa. Unfortunately, I don't know how to order the 1986 paper, or even its title. The best citation I have is-

    Zhao, 1986. [unknown title] in Hao, Su, Yu and Li (eds.). The Cretaceous System of China: Stratigraphy of China. Geological Publishing House, Beijing. 12, 67-73.

  4. Ok, thanks anyway.

    If I get the data or the book will share with the readers of this blog.