Fossil range: Middle Jurassic
Artist's impression of Huayangosaurus.
Huayangosaurus is a genus of extinct stegosaurian dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of China. The name derives from "Huayang", an alternate name for Sichuan (the province where it was discovered), and "saurus", meaning "lizard". It lived during the Bathonian to Callovian stages, around 165 million years ago, some 20 million years before its famous relative, Stegosaurus appeared in North America. At only 4.5 metres long, it was also much smaller than its famous cousin. Found in the Lower Shaximiao Formation, Huayangosaurus shared the local Middle Jurassic landscape with the sauropods Shunosaurus, Datousaurus, Omeisaurus and Protognathosaurus, the ornithopod Xiaosaurus and the carnivorous Gasosaurus.
Like other stegosaurians, Huayangosaurus was a quadrupedal herbivore with a small skull and a spiked tail. Like its more famous relative, Stegosaurus, Huayangosaurus bore the distinctive double row of plates that characterize all the stegosaurians. These plates rose vertically along its arched back. In Huayangosaurus, the plates were more spike-like than in Stegosaurus. Like Stegosaurus, however, it bore two pairs of long spikes extending horizontally near the end of its tail.
Huayangosaurus was one of the smallest known stegosaurians, at just 4.5 meters in length.
Discovery and species
As it is the most basal stegosaurian, it is placed in within its own family Huayangosauridae. It is also morphologically distinct from later (stegosaurid) forms. Its skull was broader and had premaxillary teeth in the front of its mouth. All later stegosaurians lost these teeth.
Like many other stegosaurians, it had plates all down its back and spikes on its tail. Two large spikes were above its hips, and may have been used for deterring an attack from above (considering as it was a fairly short in height compared to later stegosaurians). Its plates were smaller than those of Stegosaurus, with much less surface area. Thus they would have been much less effective heat regulators, one of the postulated functions of plates.
Mounted skeletons of Huayangosaurus are on display at the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in Zigong and the Municipal Museum of Chongqing in Sichuan Province in China.
- ^ Dong, Z., Tang, Z. and Zhou, S.W. (1982). ["Note on the new Mid-Jurassic stegosaur from Sichuan Basin, China"] (in Chinese). Vertebrata PalAsiatica 20 (1) :83-87
- ^ Sereno, P & Z-M Dong (1992). The skull of the basal stegosaur Huayangosaurus taibaii and a cladistic diagnosis of Stegosauria. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 51: 318-343
- Fastovsky, D.E. and Weishampel, D.B. (2005). "Stegosauria:Hot Plates". in Fastovsky, D.E. and Weishampel, D.B.. The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs (2nd Edition). Cambridge University Press. pp. 107–130. ISBN 0-521-81172-4.
- Dong Zhiming (1988). Dinosaurs from China. China Ocean Press, Beijing & British Museum (Natural History). ISBN 0-565-01073-5.