STL Science Center

STL Science Center

28 September 2011

Discoveries Generations in the Making

Plateosaurus is a genus of dinosaur, very early prosauropod dinosaur granted, that contains two recognized species and anywhere from three to six synonyms which are now defunct. The recognized species are Plateosaurus engelhardti and Plateosaurus gracilis. The first remains of Plateosaurus were found in Germany in 1834 by the physician Johann Friedrich Engelhardt. What he discovered in Heroldsberg were vertebrae and leg bones of an unknown animal. Nearly three years later, a paleontologist studying the find, Hermann von Meyer, described the animal as a new genus which he dubbed Plateosaurus. Over 100 individuals have been found since this all over the European continent, but the majority of finds are centered in Southern Germany, in and around the Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg regions; finds have been unearthed in France, Central Germany, and Switzerland as well, however.

One of these Central German areas, in Saxony-Anhalt, has proven very important, leading to the discoveries of between 39 and 50 skeletons in the 1910-1930 time frame of Plateosaurus, Liliensternus, and Halticosaurus. In one of the most important Black Forest dig sites Friedrich von Huene, amongst others over 21 years (von Heune was only present two of these years), unearthed 35 complete or partial skeletons and 70 fragmented individuals. It was during this time that the animal was nicknamed the Swabian Dragon, and also during this time that von Heune described the second species P. gracilis. Plateosaurus are still found even now as far away as Greenland and, through some kind of miracle in which an oil team drilled a core sample that was found to contain Plateosaurus bone fragments, has become the first dinosaur to be found in Norway.

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