Pronunciation: PLAT-ee-o-SOR-us Meaning: Broad lizard Author/s: von Meyer (1837) Synonyms: See below First Discovery: Heroldsberg, Germany Chart Position: 5
EtymologyThe name Plateosaurus is shrouded in mystery because the original author didn't provide a meaning for what he had in mind. It has been variously decribed as stemming from the Greek "Plata" (flat), "Platy" (paddle), and "plateia" (broadway), with some sources going so far as suggesting they all allude to its broad teeth... which were unknown at the time it was named! Plateosaurus is probably derived from the Greek "platos" (breadth, width, bulk) and the Greek "sauros" (lizard), based on the size of its original remains.
The species epithet, engelhardti, honors Johann Friedrich Engelhardt.
SynonymsDimodosaurus (Pidancet & Chopard, 1862)
Gresslyosaurus (Rütimeyer, 1856)
Pachysaurops (von Huene, 1961)
Pachysaurus (von Huene, 1907–1908)
Pachysauriscus (Kuhn, 1959)
Sellosaurus? (von Huene, 1907–1908)
DiscoveryThe first fossils of Plateosaurus were discovered in a Trossingen Formation clay pit about 2 km South of Heroldsberg, Feuerletten, NE Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, by chemistry teacher Dr. Johann Friedrich Philipp Engelhardt in the summer of 1834. Although not assigned as holotype, a set of hip vertebrae (UEN 552) that von Meyer referred to explicitly when discussing the distinctiveness of Plateosaurus in his initial description were nominated as neotype by Markus Moser in 2003.
Since then, Galton petitioned the ICZN to install an almost complete skull and skeleton (SMNS 13200), which has a tumultuous history itself, as replacement neotype because he considers all Plateosaurus engelhardti remains to be either non-diagnostic or "unidentifiable". Although long thought of as the unofficial Plateosaurus holotype, that specimen belongs to an altogether different species — Plateosaurus trossingensis (Fraas, 1913) — which was itself considered a nomen nudum by von Huene. On top of that, he changed its epithet to fraasianus for its official description in 1932 due to concerns over a possible confusion with Teratosaurus trossingensis, which was unnecessary.
Given that a holotype of one valid species cannot act as neotype of another, Galton pushed to have SMNS 13200 installed as the new Plateosaurus name-bearer entirely. But some paleontologists were far from impressed by this proposed course of action, and the ICZN have yet to make a decision one way or the other.