Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sauropods of the British Isles Part II

Fig 1.- A hypothetical reconstruction of Pelorosaurus conybeari.

Sauropods from the Early Cretaceous (I)

The Hastings Beds

The Hastings Beds in East Sussex, of Berriasian-Valanginian age (~140 MYA), bore a number of fragmentary sauropod remains. A set of tail vertebrae and chevrons (BMNH R2544–2555) found near Cuckfield, East Sussex, were originally described alongside some iguanodont remains by Richard Owen as Cetiosaurus brevis (Owen, 1842). Alexander Melville, noting Owen’s mistake, renamed the sauropod vertebrae Cetiosaurus conybeari (Melville, 1849). A year later, Gideon Mantell realizing that they belong to a animal quite distinct from Cetiosaurus, changed the name into Pelorosaurus conybeari (Mantell, 1850), and added to the description, a humerus (BMNH 28626) found a few meters away from the original vertebrae material. This succession of attribution changes resulted in a taxonomical nightmare for the later generation scientists. Technically, the name C. brevis has indeed seniority over Pelorosaurus conybeari and should be considered to be the valid name. However, with the invalidation of C. medius (see Part I), C. brevis would also be the type species of the genus Cetiosaurus, making its use for the Middle Jurassic C. oxoniensis, which turned out to be a very different animal quite problematic (As far as I know, the petition to ICZN to make C. oxoniensis the type species of Cetiosaurus is still pending) . As for the general aspect of what Pelorosaurus may have looked like, all that can be said from the scant remains is that it was a brachiosaurid and would probably resemble to a smaller version of the North American Late Jurassic Brachiosaurus, with a possible size of some 15 meters in length.

Not much can be said about the three other named sauropods of the Hastings Beds. ‘Pelorosaurus’ becklesi Mantell, 1852 (= Morosaurus becklesii Marsh, 1889) based on a humerus (BMNH R1868), ulna, radius and skin impressions, probably belong to a different animal than Pelorosaurus conybeari. It may also be a brachiosaurid unless it is a more advanced titanosaur. ‘Ornithopsis’ hulkei Seeley, 1870 is based on two dorsal vertebrae, one from East Sussex (BMNH R2239), the other from the Isle of Wight Wessex Formation (BMNH R28632), and originally thought to belong to a pterosaur (thus the genus name which means “bird likeness”). Owen (1876), however, split the two findings, naming the East Sussex vertebrae Bothriospondylus magnus, then Chondrosteosaurus magnus. The remains have no distinct characteristics apart the fact that they belong to a sauropod of some sort so the name should be considered dubious.  Xenoposeidon proneneukos Taylor & Naish, 2007 is based on a single partial back vertebra (BMNH R2095). Xenoposeidon’s vertebra is so unique that its affinities within the Sauropods are quite uncertain.

Next will be the sauropods from the Wessex Formation.
Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)


G. A. Mantell. 1850. On the Pelorosaurus; an undescribed gigantic terrestrial reptile, whose remains are associated with those of Iguanodon and other saurians in the strata of the Tilgate Forest, in Sussex. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 140(16):379-390.

A. G. Melville. 1849. Notes on the vertebral column of the Iguanodon. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 139:285-300.

D. Naish and D. M. Martill. 2007. Dinosaurs of Great Britain and the role of the Geological Society of London in their discovery: basal Dinosauria and Saurischia. Journal of the Geological Society, London 164:493-510.

R. Owen. 1876. Monograph on the fossil Reptilia of the Wealden and Purbeck formations. Supplement no. VII. Crocodilia (Poikilopleuron) and Dinosauria? (Chondrosteosaurus). [Wealden.]. The Palaeontographical Society, London 1876:1-7.

H. G. Seeley. 1870. On Ornithopsis, a gigantic animal of the pterodactyle kind from the Wealden. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, series 4 5:279-283.

M. P. Taylor and D. Naish. 2007. An unusual new neosauropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Hastings Beds Group of East Sussex, England. Palaeontology 50(6):1547-1564.

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