Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

The earliest known sauropod dinosaur

Abstract

Sauropods were a very successful group of dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, but their earlier history is poorly known. Until now, the earliest reported sauropod bones were from the Early Jurassic1,2,3, and the only tentative evidence of earlier sauropods was in the form of controversial footprints4,5. Here we report the discovery of an incomplete sauropod skeleton from the Late Triassic period of Thailand, which provides the first osteological evidence of pre-Jurassic sauropods. This dinosaur is markedly different from prosauropods and substantiates theoretical predictions that there was a fairly long period of sauropod evolution during the Triassic.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Isanosaurus attavipachi, elements of the holotype, palaeontological collection of the Department of Mineral Ressources, Thailand, no. CH4.
Figure 2: Left femur of Isanosaurus attavipachi (CH4-1).

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. Cooper, M. R. A reassessment of Vulcanodon karibaensis Raath (Dinosauria: Saurischia) and the origin of the Sauropoda. Palaeontol. Afr. 25 , 203–231 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Jain, S. L., Kutty, T. S., Roychowdhury, T. & Chatterjee, S. in IV International Gondwana Symposium 204– 216 (Hindustan Publishing Corporation, Delhi, 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Yadagiri, P. A new sauropod Kotasaurus yamanpalliensis from Lower Jurassic Kota Formation of India. Rec. Geol. Surv. India 11, 102–127 (1988).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ellenberger, F. & Ellenberger, P. Principaux types de pistes de vertébrés dans les couches du Stormberg au Basutoland (Afrique du Sud). C. R. Somm. Séanc. Soc. Géol. Fr. 4, 65–67 ( 1958).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Charig, A. J., Attridge, J. & Crompton, A. W. On the origin of the sauropods and the classification of the Saurischia. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 176, 197–221 (1965).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Racey, A. et al. Stratigraphy and reservoir potential of the Mesozoic Khorat Group, NE Thailand. J. Petrol. Geol. 19, 5– 40 (1996).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Buffetaut, E., Martin, V., Sattayarak, N. & Suteethorn, V. The oldest known dinosaur from southeast Asia: a prosauropod from the Nam Phong Formation (late Triassic) of northeastern Thailand. Geol. Mag. 132, 739–742 ( 1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Galton, P. M. in The Dinosauria (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmolska, H.) 320–344 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Galton, P. M. Notes on the Melanorosauridae, a family of large prosauropod dinosaurs (Saurischia: Sauropodomorpha). Geobios 18, 671– 676 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Gauffre, F. X. The most recent melanorosaurid (Saurischia, Prosauropoda), Lower Jurassic of Lesotho, with remarks on the prosauropod phylogeny. N. Jb. Geol. Paläont. Mh 11, 648–654 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Barrett, P. A sauropod dinosaur from the Lower Lufeng Formation (Lower Jurassic) of Yunnan Province, People's Republic of China. J. Vert. Paleontol. 19, 785–787 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dong, Z., Zhou, S. & Zhang, Y. The dinosaurian remains from Sichuan Basin, China. Palaeontol. Sinica C 23, 1–145 (1983).

    Google Scholar 

  13. He, X., Wang, C., Liu, S., Zhou, F., Liu, T., Cai, K. & Dai, B. A new species of sauropod from the Early Jurassic of Gongxian County, Sichuan. Acta Geologica Sichuan 18, 1– 7 (1998).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Zhang, Y. The Middle Jurassic Dinosaur Fauna from Dashanpu, Zigong, Sichuan vol. 1 1–89 (Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Chengdu, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Upchurch, P. The phylogenetic relationships of sauropod dinosaurs. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 124, 43–103 ( 1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Wilson, J. A. & Sereno, P. C. Early evolution and higher-level phylogeny of sauropod dinosaurs. Soc. Vert. Paleontol. Mem. 5, 1–68 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Bonaparte, J. F. Evolucion de las vertébras presacras en Sauropodomorpha. Ameghiniana 36, 115–187 (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Bonaparte, J. F. Los tetrapodos del sector superior de la formacion Los Colorados; La Rioja, Argentina (Triasico superior). Opera Lilloana 22, 1–183 (1971).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Wellnhofer, P. Prosauropod dinosaurs from the Feuerletten (Middle Norian) of Ellingen near Weissenburg in Bavaria. Rev. Paléobiologie vol. spéc. 7, 263–271 ( 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Sues, H. D. in The Dinosauria (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmolska, H.) 143–147 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

  21. McIntosh, J. S. in The Dinosauria (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmolska, H.) 345–401 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Upchurch, P. The evolutionary history of sauropod dinosaurs. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 349, 365–390 ( 1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Ellenberger, P. Contribution à la classification des pistes de vertébrés du Trias. Les types du Stormberg d’Afrique du Sud (I). Palaeovertebrata Mém. Extr. 1–104 ( 1972).

  24. Haubold, H. Saurierfährten (A. Ziemsen, Wittenberg-Lutherstadt, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Thulborn, T. Dinosaur Tracks (Chapman and Hall, London, 1990).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  26. Buffetaut, E. & Suteethorn, V. in Biogeography and Geological Evolution of SE Asia (eds Hall, R. & Holloway, J. D.) 83– 90 (Backhuys, Leiden, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gierlinski, R. & Sawicki, R. New sauropod tracks from the Lower Jurassic of Poland. Geol. Quart. 42, 477–480 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  28. Avanzini, M., Frisia, S., Van den Driessche, K. & Keppens, E. A dinosaur tracksite in an early Liassic tidal flat in northern Italy: paleoenvironmental reconstruction from sedimentology and geochemistry. Palaios 12, 538–551 (1997).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Geological Survey of Thailand, a special grant from the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers (Paris), the Association Dinosauria (Espéraza, France), the Jurassic Foundation (Drumheller, Canada) and a NERC grant to G.C. We thank A. Milner (The Natural History Museum, London) for access to specimens in her care, and G. Olshevsky and T. Ford for bibliographic help.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eric Buffetaut.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Buffetaut, E., Suteethorn, V., Cuny, G. et al. The earliest known sauropod dinosaur. Nature 407, 72–74 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35024060

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/35024060

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing