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AARDONYX

Pronunciation: Ahr-don-ix
Meaning: Earth claw
Authors: Yates et al. (2009)
Previous names: None known
First discovery: Free State, S.Africa
Roar factor: 2/10

Aardonyx celestae

Described in 2009 based on the remains of two sub adults, Aardonyx (close to the ancestor of sauropods proper) plugged a few holes in the evolution of giant lumbering herbivores from bipedal (two-leg drive) to quadrupedal (four-leg drive).

Straightened thighs with muscle attachment anchors lowered to the mid-point which allowed for bigger muscles thus increased power, strengthened bracing joints to reinforce the spine, interlocking forearm bones and non-twisting wrists, and flattened weight-bearing feet, suggest Aardonyx was becoming just as comfortable on four legs as it was on two. It was lugging around a huge fermenting tank of a belly and had a mouth unhindered by huge-gape-restricting cheeks to fill it with, which is as good a reason as any for the shift in stance and sauropod super-sizing that followed. They simply ate themselves bigger!

Aardonyx was a hugely unexpected bonus when the National Geographic funded a research party to explore a known South African Massospondylus hot spot for juvenile specimens of this common as dust "prosauropod", and its tough-as-nuts muck-encrusted name-prompting claws were discovered by Mark Blackbeard (our new favourite paleontologist, based on sirname alone) in 2004.
(Celeste Yates' Earth Claw) Etymology
Aardonyx is derived from the Afrikaans "aard" (earth) and the Greek "onux" (claw), referring to its earth-encrusted feet claws which were the first remains to be discovered. The species epithet, celestae (ce-less-tie) honors Celeste Yates who was in charge of removing said earth.
Discovery
The first fossils of Aardonyx were discovered in the Upper Elliot Formation at "Marc's Quarry", farm Spion Kop, Senekal District, Free State, South Africa, by Marc Blackbeard in 2004.
The holotype (BP/1/6254) is a maxilla (a tooth-bearing bone from the upper jaw).
References
• A. M. Yates, M. F. Bonnan, J. Neveling, A. Chinsamy, M. G. Blackbeard (2010)
"A new transitional sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism".
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Period: Early Jurassic
Timespan: 201-196 million years ago
Age: Hettangian-Simemurian
Vital Stats:
Est. Max. Length: 9 meters
Est. Max. Height: 2 meters
Est. Max. Weight: 2 tons
Diet: Herbivorous
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Saurischia
Sauropodomorpha
Aardonyx
celestae
             
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