A new genus and species of sauropodomorph dinosaur has been discovered, after being misidentified as Plateosaurus trossingensis and kept in the Palaeontological Collection of the University of Tübingen in Germany for a century.
The newly-identified dinosaur species lived in what is now known as Swabian Alb during the Triassic period, about 203 to 211 million years ago.
The ancient animal, scientifically named Tuebingosaurus maierfritzorum, belongs to the sauropodomorph clade Massopoda.
Its partial skeleton was found in the Trossingen Formation near the city of Tübingen in Germany in 1922.
“When we re-analyzed a skeleton that was discovered in Trossingen in 1922, consisting mainly of the rear of the body, we established that many of the bones were not the same as a typical Plateosaurus,” said University of Tübingen paleontologists Omar Rafael Regalado Fernandez and Ingmar Werneburg.
“For instance, the partial skeleton displayed, among other derived characters, broader and more strongly-built hips with fused sacral vertebrae as well as unusually large and robust long bones — both features implied locomotion on four legs.”
“This is unlike the Plateosauridae, which although resembling the long-necked sauropods from the Jura region likely moved on only two legs.”
The researchers found that Tuebingosaurus maierfritzorum was likely a quadruped and much more closely related to the later large sauropods such as Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus than to the Plateosauridae.
“Based on our phylogenetic analysis, Tuebingosaurus maierfritzorum is positioned as the earliest massopodan discovered in the Trossingen beds,” they said.
“The fact that it has been illustrated since the early 20th century as part of Plateosaurus may suggest that some noise has been introduced into the phylogenetic analyses of the past decade by assuming all the medium to large-sized sauropodomorphs from Germany belonged to the same species.”
“It is also clear that there is no consensus, in phylogenetic terms, on plateosaurian features and massopodan features since, through the literature, two incompatible overall topologies have been produced.”
“Through comparative anatomy and the evidence from our phylogenetic analysis, Tuebingosaurus maierfritzorum displays several derived features consistent with the position among massopodans and hints to an early diversification of Sauropodomorpha as they occupied the vacant niches in Pangaea left by rhynchosaurs and aetosaurs.”
“A rapid disparification event could explain the contradictory phylogenetic signals discussed in the literature.”
“Many cranial characters that support one group could be a product of convergence as the animals adopted similar feeding strategies in different parts of Pangaea.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Vertebrate Zoology.
O.R.R. Fernández & I. Werneburg. 2022. A new massopodan sauropodomorph from Trossingen Formation (Germany) hidden as ‘Plateosaurus’ for 100 years in the historical Tübingen collection. Vertebrate Zoology 72: 771-822; doi: 10.3897/vz.72.e86348
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