Riojasaurus

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Riojasaurus

Riojasaurus (meaning “Rioja lizard”) was a herbivorous sauropodomorph dinosaur named after La Rioja Province in Argentina where it was found by José Bonaparte. It lived during the Late Triassic and grew to about 10 metres (33 ft) long. Riojasaurus is the only known riojasaurid to live in South America.

Riojasaurus incertus by Teratophoneus

Riojasaurus had a heavy body, bulky legs, and a long neck and tail. Its leg bones were dense and massive for an early sauropodomorph. By contrast, its vertebrae were lightened by hollow cavities, and unlike most early sauropodomorphs, Riojasaurus had four sacral vertebrae instead of three. It has been thought it probably moved slowly on all fours and was unable to rear up on its back legs. The nearly equal length of the fore and hindlimbs has also been interpreted as suggestive of an obligatorily quadrupedal gait. However, in 2016, Scott Hartman found the hand anatomy, relatively straight back and largely immobile shoulder girdle of Riojasaurus supported it being a biped.

Riojasaurus skull cast, Copenhagen. Author: FunkMonk

No skull was found with the first skeleton of Riojasaurus, although a well-preserved skull attributed to Riojasaurus was found later. The teeth of Riojasaurus were leaf shaped and serrated. The upper jaw contained 5 teeth at the front, with 24 more behind them in a row that ended under the eyes.

Comparisons between the scleral rings of Riojasaurus and modern birds and reptiles suggest that it may have been cathemeral, active throughout the day at short intervals.

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