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a plant-eating cetiosaurid sauropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of England.
Pronunciation: see-TIE-o-SOR-us
Meaning: Whale-like lizard
Author/s: Richard Owen (1841)
Synonyms: Non known
First Discovery: Oxford, England
Chart Position: 7

Cetiosaurus oxoniensis

Cetiosaurus, known mainly from several southern/south western English counties and the Isle of Wight, was named by Sir Richard Owen in 1841. He thought it was a marine crocodile of whale-like proportions, probably because it was discovered a full year before he even coined the term Dinosauria, but it became the first named sauropod when Thomas Huxley added its name to the roll of "Fearfully Great Lizards" in 1869, then it became the taxonomic dumping ground where angels fear to tread.

Not to be confused with Cetiosauriscus, the most unusual features of Cetiosaurus are its equal-lengthed forearm and upper arm, and its backbone. Unlike more advanced sauropods with their new-fangled weight saving hollows the spine of Cetiosaurus was pretty much solid bone and since they probably lumbered across the Mid-Jurassic in herds we imagine they made a right old clank. But noise pollution and extra baggage is nothing compared to their current plight.

By 1842 no less than six species of Cetiosaurus were mentioned in print. None of them were installed as official name-bearer and two of them didn't even have any material assigned to them. But according to Steel (1970) Owen "intended" Cetiosaurus medius to be the name-bearing specimen and this is now the target of paleontologist's wrath. To bring some stability and distance the real Cetiosaurus from centuries of mis-assigned species and remains that could belong to anything from an iguanadont to a moose or a macaroon, Upchurch, Martin and Taylor banged on the ICZN's door in 2009 demanding that Cetiosaurus Medius be booted from its perch and a much more reliable member installed as yardstick.

Step forward Cetiosaurus oxoniensis—the Cetiosaurus saviour from Bletchingdon Station—known from superior fossilized booty discovered by a watchmaker known only as "Mr. Chapman", and with shoulders broad enough to anchor this much loved (and much studied) dinosaur before the whole damn thing imploded. Truth be told things could have been a lot worse. As recently as 2003 Cetiosaurus brevis was being mooted as the Cetiosaurus holotype and this has been known as Pelorosaurus for the best part of 100 years! We listed Cetiosaurus oxoniensis as the type specimen in anticipation of commonsense prevailing, and the powers that be duly obliged, installing Cetiosaurus oxoniensis as the type specieds on April 23rd, 2014.

According to a 2004 study, Cetiosaurus and fellow four-legged, barrel-bodied, plant munchers Barapasaurus, Patagosaurus, Tehuelchesaurus, and the noodle-necked Mamenchisaurines, form a natural group of sauropods known as Cetiosauridae (Whale lizards). The name was first coined by Lyddeker in 1888, though entry was a bit more relaxed back then and most of its original members have long since fallen by the wayside.
Cetiosaurus is derived from "cetaceous"—Owen's unique take on the Greek "keteios" (whale-like), and the Greek "sauros" (lizard).
The species epithet, Oxoniensis (Philips 1871), means "from Oxford" in Latin.
Discovery and holotype
The Cetiosaurus holotype-elect, properly known as a Lectotype, is a partial skeleton (OUMNH J13605–13613, J13615–16, J13619–J13688 and J13899) that was found in Forest Marble sediments (right above the Great Oolite) in a quarry near Enslow Bridge, Bletchingdon (old Kirtlington) Station, just north of Oxford, by a watchmaker named Mr. Chapman in the 1860s.
Floodplain and open woodland. Professor Phillips of Oxford University supposed Cetiosaurus was a riverside dweller or marsh lover.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Middle Jurassic
Stage: Bajocian-Bathonian
Age range: 171-165 mya
Est. max. length: 14 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 14 tons
Diet: Herbivore
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "CETIOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 24th Feb 2018.