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an omnivorous massospondylid sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Late Triassic of South Africa.
Pronunciation: mas-o-SPON-di-lus
Meaning: Longer vertebrae
Author/s: Owen (1854)
Synonyms: See below
First Discovery: Harrismith, South Africa
Chart Position: 9

Massospondylus carinatus

(Longer vertebrae, keeled)Etymology
Massospondylus is derived from the Greek "masson" (longer) and "spondylos"' (vertebra), so named "because the vertebrae are proportionately longer than those of the extinct crocodile called Macrospondylus" (Owen, 1854). Its name is sometimes misinterpreted as coming from the Latin "massa" (hump, lump, or mass). The species epithet, carinatus, means "keeled" in Latin.
• ?Aetonyx palustris (Broom, 1911) - Upper Elliot Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa
• ?Aristosaurus erectus (E.C.N. van Hoepen, 1920) - Clarence Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa.
• ?Dromicosaurus gracilis (Hoepen, 1920) - Karoo Sequence, Stormberg Beds, South Africa
• ?Gryponyx (Broom, 1912) - Lesotho, Orange Free State, South Africa
• ?Gyposaurus (Broom, 1911) - Clarence Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa
• ?Hortalotarsus (Harry Seeley, 1894) - Clarence Formation, Eastern Cape, Cape Province, South Africa (Destroyed by farmers who thought it was a "bushman" who would wreak havoc with their future generation's religious beliefs!)
• ?Leptospondylus capensis (Owen, 1895) - Upper Elliot Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa (destroyed in World War II)
• Massosaurus (O.P. Hay, 1910) - Mispelling of Massospondylus
• ?Pachyspondylus orpenii Owen, 1854) - Upper Elliot Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa (also destroyed in World War II.)
Thecodontosaurus dubius (Haughton, 1924) - Upper Elliot Formation, Orange Free State, South Africa
There are whispers on the paleontological grapevine that Fabien Knoll's 2010 genus Ignavusaurus may also be synonymous with Massospondylus.
The first Massospondylus remains were collected from a surface outcrop of the Upper Elliot Formation at Farm Beauchef Abbey, near the town of Harrismith, South Africa, by government surveyor Joseph Millard Orpen in 1853.
The type series (no holotype designated) was five neck vertebrae that Owen thought belonged to extinct carnivorous reptiles akin to modern lizards such as Iguanas, and it was actually Richard Lydekker who identified them as dinosaurian in 1888, based in part on supposed specimens from India.
These remains and more were blown to buggery in 1941 when their home—The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, London—was hit by a WWII bombing raid, which, in hindsight, is no bad thing. The fossils, and thus surviving illustrations and plaster casts that were based on them, were inadequate for diagnosing a genus and species, certainly for a critter that anchors an entire family.
In 2010, Yates and Barrett petitioned the ICZN to boot the lousy type series from its perch and install a new name-bearer, and the neotype (new type) they nominated is a peach: the skeleton and skull of a particularly fine specimen affectionately known as "Big Momma", catalogued as BP/1/4934, and housed in the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Triassic
Stage: Norian-Rhaetian
Age range: 201-189 mya
Est. max. length: 4.5 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 200 Kg
Diet: Herbivore
Other Species
Name-bearer aside, seven other species of Massospondylus have been named, but only Massospondylus kaalae (Barrett, 2009) is today considered valid.
Massospondylus browni (Seeley, 1895)
Massospondylus hislopi (Lydekker, 1890)
Massospondylus rawesi (Lydekker, 1890)
Massospondylus harriesi (Broom 1911)
Massospondylus schwarzi (Haughton, 1924)
Massospondylus huenei (Cooper, 1981)
Massospondylus kaalae (Barrett 2009)
• Richard Owen (1854) "Descriptive catalogue of the Fossil organic remains of Reptilia and Pisces contained in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England."
• Oliver P. Hay (February 15th, 1910) "On the manner of locomotion of the dinosaurs, especially Diplodocus, with remarks on the origin of the birds". Proceedings of the Washington academy of sciences, Vol. XII, No. 1, Page 1-25.
• Broom, Robert (1911) "On the dinosaurs of the Stormberg, South Africa". Annals of the South African Museum 7 (4): 291–308.
• J. Attridge, A.W. Crompton and Farish A. Jenkins, Jr. (1985) "The southern Liassic prosauropod Massospondylus discovered in North America"
• Donald F. Glut (2000) "Massospondylus" in "Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia: Supplement 1". Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. p. 258.
• Adam M. Yates & Paul M. Barrett (2010) "Massospondylus carinatus Owen 1854 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the Lower Jurassic of South Africa: Proposed conservation of usage by designation of a neotype".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "MASSOSPONDYLUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 29th Mar 2017.