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AUSTRALODOCUS

a herbivorous titanosauriform sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of Tanzania.
image
Pronunciation: OSS-tra-luh-DOE-kus
Meaning: Southern beam
Author/s: Remes (2007)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Lindi, Tanzania
Chart Position: 495

Australodocus bohetii

The remains that would become Australodocus were hauled from "Quarry G" in Tanzania's famous Tendaguru beds in 1909 by Werner Janensch who assigned them, along with a zillion other fragments, to the area's resident diplodocid Barosaurus africanus in 1922. Barosaurus africanus itself was initially named Gigantosaurus africanus by Fraas in 1908, because he thought an unrelated sauropod from England—Gigantosaurus megalonyx—had been sunk into Ornithopsis humerocristatus so the generic name was available, but Richard Sternfeld renamed it Tornieria africanus in 1911 when the latter proved not to be the case. Later, it was brushed off as "?Barosaurus with no formal assignment" (McIntosh, 1990) before Paul Upchurch re-christened it Tornieria africana in 2004. By the by, its fossil bedfellow, Tornieria robustus, followed a similarly tangled taxonomic route. But ultimately it was renamed Janenschia by Rupert Wild in 1991.

In 2007, Kristian Remes revisited the Tornieria africana fossils that Allied forces had missed when they bombed the Munich Museum during WWII, and stumbled upon a pair of vertebrae that were originally part of a four bone set. They were much shorter than those of Tornieria and thus became Australodocus. But they still sported the typical forked spines and four other features that confirmed a diplodocid affinity, which was big news. If Australodocus were diplodocids, then Tendaguru would join North America's Morrison in being one of only two Jurassic Formations to boast several species of diplodocid. It would also mean that renowned-for-low-browsing diplodocids were flourishing in an African environment dominated by high-browse flora such as araucarian and podocarpacian conifer trees that only energy-expensive manoeuvres would allow them to reach.

In light of this startling revelation, Whitlock revisited Australodocus to work out why diplodocids were thriving in an eco-system that they were ill-equipped to thrive in, and realised that perhaps Australodocus weren't so ill-equipped, after all. Their vertebrae are riddled with small internal cavities (camellae) and other features typical of macronarians — the sauropods such as Brachiosaurus who held their necks more vertically and were perfectly pitched to snatch fodder from tall trees. In fact, Giraffatitan — a macronarian previously known as Brachiosaurus brancai — sports all of the features that are "unique" to Australodocus, and it was found just a stones-throw from "Quarry G". Just sayin'.
(Boheti's southern beam)Etymology
Australodocus is derived from the Latin "australis" (southern) and the Greek "dokos/δοκоς" (beam), based on the initial assumption that it represented a southern Gondwanan relative of North America's Diplodocus — "double-beam".
The species epithet, bohetti, honors Boheti bin Amrani, the native African crew supervisor and chief preparator of the German Tendaguru Expeditions.
Discovery
The remains of Australodocus were discovered at "Tendaguru quarry G" in the Upper Dinosaur Member of the Tendaguru Formation, Lindi, Tanzania, East Africa, during a Werner Janensch-led expedition in 1909. The holotype — HMN MB.R.2455 [G 70] — is a neck (No.6?) vertebrae, the paratype — MB.R.2454 [G 69] — is another (No.7?).
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Jurassic
Stage: Tithonian
Age range: 151-145 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 21 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 14 tons
Diet: Herbivore
References
• Seeley H G (1869) "Gigantosaurus megalonyx, a terrestrial reptile from the Kimeridge Clay". Page 94-95 in "Index to the Fossil Remains of Aves, Ornithosauria, and Reptilia from the Secondary System of Strata, arranged in the Woodwardian Museum of the University of Cambridge".
• Lydekker R (1888) "Catalogue of the Fossil Reptilia and Amphibia in the British Museum (Natural History). Part I. Containing the Orders Ornithosauria, Crocodilia, Dinosauria, Squamata, Rhynchocephalia, and Proterosauria". British Museum (Natural History):London, 1-309.
• Fraas E (1908) "Dinosaurierfunde in Ostafrika [Discoveries of dinosaurs in German - East Africa]". Jahreshefte des Vereins für Vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg 64: 84-86.
• Sternfeld R (1911) "Zur Nomenklatur der Gattung Gigantosaurus Fraas [On the nomenclature of the genus Gigantosaurus Fraas]". Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin 1911: 398.
• Janensch W (1922) "Das Handskelett von Gigantosaurus robustus und Brachiosaurus brancai aus den Tendaguru-Schichten Deutsch-Ostafrikas". Centralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie 1922: 464–480.
• Remes K (2007) "A second Gondwanan diplodocid dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic Tendaguru Beds of Tanzania, East Africa". Palaeontology 50(3): 653–667.
• Whitlock J A (2011) "A phylogenetic analysis of Diplodocoidea (Saurischia: Sauropoda)". Zoologocal journal of the Linnean Society 161(4): 872–915.
• Whitlock J A (2011) "Re-evaluation of Australodocus bohetii, a putative diplodocoid sauropod from the Tendaguru Formation of Tanzania, with comment on Late Jurassic sauropod faunal diversity and palaeoecology". Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 309(3): 333-341.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "AUSTRALODOCUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 26th Jun 2017.
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