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SALTASAURUS

a plant-eating titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina.
saltasaurus
Pronunciation: SAHL-tah-SOR-us
Meaning: Salta lizard
Author/s: Bonaparte and Powell (1980)
Synonyms: Loricosaurus?
First Discovery: Salta, Argentina
Chart Position: 230

Saltasaurus loricatus

Sheer size was generally enough protection for a sauropod but Saltasaurus wasn't as big as its lumbering cousins. It was only 12 meters long with stocky-limbs and weighed a paltry eight tons. Fortunately, Mother Nature can often be relied upon to come to the rescue with work-arounds in such situations and the odd million years wait is generally worth it. Evolution tends to weed out weak spots.

For many years armour scutes from Patagonia had been assigned to ankylosaurs but paleontologists were cock-a-hoop when a huge haul of obviously non-ankylosaur remains, representing most parts of the skeleton barring a skull, confirmed what a certain paleontologist was banging-on about as early as 1896 — titanosaurs were armoured sauropods.

Amongst the associated but largely disarticulated bones from a number of individuals were palm-sized armour scutes and skin samples riddled with bony osteoderms. It seems the back and flanks of Saltasaurus were fortified with this nobbly armour and they probably had them from the get-go.

According to Coria and Chiappe, a large titanosaurid nesting ground discovered at Auca Mahuevo in Patagonia was a gathering spot for mothers who "dug holes with their back feet, laid eggs in clutches averaging around 25 eggs each, and buried the nests under dirt and vegetation." The small eggs, about 11–12 cm in diameter, contained fossilised embryos and even at this early stage skin impressions showed small, bead-like armour scutes arranged in a mosaic.
Etymology
Saltasaurus is derived from "Salta" (the Province in which it was discovered) and the Greek "sauros" (lizard). The species epithet, loricatus, means "armoured" in Latin.
Synonyms
Loricosaurus noricus? (von Huene, 1929)
Discovery
The first fossils of Saltasaurus were discovered at the "El Brete" Ranch in the Lecho Formation, Salta Province, Argentina by José Bonaparte between 1975 and 1977.
The holotype (PVL 4017-92) is a partial hip; a pair of ilia fused to a complete sacrum. Thanks to numerous specimens most of the skeleton is now known.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Cretaceous
Stage: Campanian-Maastrichtian
Age range: 73-66 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 12 meters
Est. max. hip height: 4 meters
Est. max. weight: 8 tons
Diet: Herbivore
Other Species?
Despite being renamed Neuquensaurus, albeit unofficially in Jaime Powell's dissertation in 1986, some limb material and neck vertebrae that were initially assigned to "Titanosaurus australis" (Lyddekker, 1893) and "Titanosaurus robustus" (Huene, 1929) were tentatively reassigned to Saltasaurus with their respective epithets by John McIntosh in 1990. But they spent only a couple of years there before Powell used them to anchor a new Titanosaur—Neuquensaurus australis, and a second species—Neuquensaurus robustus, this time officially, in 1992. It's still unclear whether the latter is valid, or if it merely represents a larger specimen of the former.
References
• Bonaparte J.F. and Powell J.E. (1980) "A continental assemblage of tetrapods from the Upper Cretaceous beds of El Brete, northwestern Argentina (Sauropoda-Coelurosauria-Carnosauria-Aves)". Mémoires de la Société Géologique de France, Nouvelle Série 139:19-28.
• McIntosh J.S. (1990) "Sauropoda" in "The Dinosauria: First Edition".
• Powell J.E. (1992) Osteology of Saltasaurus loricatus (Sauropoda - Titanosauridae) from the Upper Cretaceous of northwest Argentina".
• Coria R.A. and ChiappeL.M. (2007) "Embryonic Skin From Late Cretaceous Sauropods (Dinosauria) of Auca Mahuevo, Patgonia, Argentina".
• Curry-Rogers K. and Wilson J. (2006) "The Sauropods: Evolution and Paleobiology".
• Novas F.E. (2009) "The Age of Dinosaurs in South America".
• Virginia Zurriaguz and Jaime Powell (2015) "New contributions to the presacral osteology of Saltasaurus loricatus (Sauropoda, Titanosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous of northern Argentina"
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "SALTASAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 21st Oct 2017.
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