STL Science Center

STL Science Center

02 April 2016

More Chinese Lizards

Any dinosaur with Sino- in the genus or species has a history of some sort that is related to or originated in China. That, of course, is important given that this week's dinosaur is very prominently related to China by name and location of recovered fossil remains. Sinosaurus triassicus Young 1948 is a dilophosaurid theropod with a number of specimens representing it. We know there are multiple not because they are all published, but because at least a secondary set of remains was named as Dilophosaurus sinensis Hu 1993 and synonymized in a subsequent study of the remains conducted by Dong Zhiming in 2003. The many different remains are housed in numerous museums including the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) and Lufeng Dinosaurian Museum (ZLJT). The reason that realizing that there area respectable number of Sinosaurus fossils in museums is important is because this is a dinosaur that is not popularly well known but is well known in science in part due to the number of specimens. 

As stated earlier Sinosaurus is a dilophosaurid. Dilophosaurid is not a recognized clade, but describes a group of crested theropods that superficially resembles the dinosaur Dilophosaurus wetherelli. Prior classifications place Dilophosaurus closer to the Tetanuran theropods (stiff-tailed theropods) to which Sinosaurus belongs. Dilophosaurus actually sits outside of even the Tetanurans in the same group as Coelophysis, making it a basal theropod. Therefore, despite superficial resemblances, Sinosaurus is actually a more advanced and derived theropod. The specific name, triassicus, refers to the fact that Chung Chien Young originally thought the formation from which the type specimen came was Triassic. We now know that Sinosaurus, like Dilophosaurus, was actually an early Jurassic dinosaur dating to between 200 - 190 million years ago.

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