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ANTETONITRUS

a herbivorous sauropod dinosaur from the Late Triassic of South Africa.
antetonitrus
Pronunciation: an-TEE-toh-NIGH-trus
Meaning: Before the thunder
Author/s: Yates and Kitching (2003)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Free State, South Africa
Chart Position: 434

Antetonitrus ingenipes

The critter we now know as Antetonitrus was discovered by James Kitching in the Free State of South Africa in 1981, then lay gathering dust on the shelves of Witwatersrand University's Bernard Price Institute in Johannesburg after being misidentified as a specimen of the "prosauropod" Euskelosaurus. Its fossils were rediscovered two decades later by Adam Yates who recognized them as distinct, then he set about making sense of their weird features before publishing his findings in cahoots with Kitching in 2002.|1|

Antetonitrus is one of the earliest "proper" sauropods but appears to retain some of the features of its earlier, primarily bipedal, mostly lightweight relatives, the none-sauropod sauropodomorphs (aka "prosauropods"). It was moderately sized but already rotund with long and strong forelimbs, thickened wrists and short, robust hands which are all adaptations for weight-bearing, but its thumbs remained flexible which suggests it was still able to grasp and manipulate food. In the coming millions of years, Antetonitrus relatives would evolve even longer, thicker "arm" bones and stronger muscles to lock the wrists for permanent four-leg-drive, then the super-sizing would begin, culminating in the real thunder lizards; the biggest and heaviest animals ever to walk the earth.
Etymology
Antetonitrus is derived from the Latin "ante" (before) and "tonitrus" (thunder) which is a reference to its existence before Brontosaurus (meaning "Thunder Lizard" in Greek). This was an amazing instance of foresight, as Brontosaurus had been sunk as a synonym of Apatosaurus by Elmer Riggs in 1903, but came thundering back as a valid critter courtesy of Tschopp, Mateus and Benson in 2015.|2| The species epithet, ingenipes, is derived from the Latin "ingens" (massive) and "pes" ("paw" or "foot"), in reference to its robust hands and feet.
Discovery
Veteran fossil hunter James W. Kitching discovered Antetonitrus on farmland in the Lower Elliot Formation, Ladybrand District, Orange Free State, South Africa in 1981. The holotype (BP/1/4952) consists of several types of vertebrae and numerous bones from both forelimb and hind limb. A smaller referred specimen (BP/1/4952b), including a right shoulder blade, a right humerus (one of two forearm bone), a left ulna (the other forearm bone), a left shinbone and a right metatarsal II, was found at the same site as the holotype.
Back when Antetonitrus and its Norian-aged Elliot Formaton brethren (Melanorosaurus and Blikanasaurus) were still thought to be prosauropods, the oldest known sauropod was Isanosaurus from the slightly-younger Late Norian-Early Rhaetian-aged Nam Phong Formation of Thailand.|3| Yates' identification of the South African forms as sauropods themselves may have knocked Isanosaurus off its perch date-wise, but it is still the earliest example of a true sauropod that walked permanently on four legs.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Triassic
Stage: Norian
Age range: 220-209 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 10 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 3 tons
Diet: Herbivore
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Saurischia
Sauropodomorpha
Sauropoda
Antetonitrus
ingenipes
References
• Yates A.M. and Kitching J.W. (2003) "The earliest known sauropod dinosaur and the first steps towards sauropod locomotion". [*image credit*] Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 270, 1753–1758.
• Tschopp E, Mateus O. V. and Benson R.B.J. (2015) "A specimen-level phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision of Diplodocidae (Dinosauria, Sauropoda)". PeerJ 3:e857.
• Buffetaut E, Suteethorn V, Cuny G, Tong H, Le Loeuff J, Khansubha S and Jongautchariyakul S (2000) "The earliest known sauropod dinosaur". Nature 407, 72-74. doi:10.1038/35024060.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "ANTETONITRUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 24th Nov 2017.
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