Author's note: these pages were written some years ago. I am not planning to update them. For a more current coverage, see the link to palaeos com Palaeos website (to which many links on these pages point to anyway. More info here


the early giants

Baraposaurus tagorei
link to palaeos com Toarcian of link to palaeos com Gondwanaland
illustration by Steve Kirk - Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals
More on Barapasaurus

family Vulcanodontidae


Vulcanodon karibaensis Raath 1972
 Vulcanodon beds, Mashonaland North, Zimbabwe
 Partial skeleton 6 meters long, missing neck and head
Estimated total length around 8 metres; Weight several tonnes
Lifestyle: Very large terrestrial herbivore
Age: link to palaeos com Sinemurian

Vulcanodon is the most primitive known sauropod dinosaur, and retains a number of prosauropod features.  Yet some of the characteristics of the skeleton, such as the pubis, are anatomically more advanced than in larger and later sauropods like Barapasaurus.  This is a good example of what is called "mosaic" evolution, the presence of both primitive and advanced characteristics within transitional organisms (Archaeopteryx is a good example of this, displaying both theropod ("prmitive") and bird ('advanced") characteristics.)

Somewhat contradictory dates have been given for the "Vulcanodon Beds".  Although reported from the earliest Jurassic, close to the Triassic boundary (i.e. early link to palaeos com Hettangian), pollen analysis indicates a date no older than the Sinemurian, and possibly younger [Paul E. Olsen & H-D Sues, "The Triassic-Jurassic tetrapod transition", p.329 n.; in The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, ed. K.Padian].  I have tentatively dated Vulcanodon as Sinemurian.  In any case it seems that the Vulcanodontids and their descendents quickly supplanted the Plateosaurs as large terrestrial herbivores, althogh smaller prosauropods continued up until the link to palaeos com Toarcian.

Kunmingosaurus wudingensis Zhao, 1985
nearly complete skeleton
Overall length: 6 metres

Chinshakiangosaurus zhongheensis Yeh, 1975
fragmentary skeleton
Overall length: ?12 - ?13 metres

 Reference is made to a sauropod dinosaur from the Wudin basin in Yunnan, China.  Although the horizon is thought equivalent to the adjacent famous prosauropod-dominated Lower Lufeng formation (Hettangian), there is no evidence for sauropods in the Lufeng beds [A.L.Sun and K.H.Cui, "The Lower Lufeng Saurischian fauna", p.278, and Peter M. Galton, "Herbivorous adaptions of dinosaurs, p.208; in The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, ed. K.Padian] and it is likely that Kunmingosaurus and Chinshakiangosaurus comes from a later period, perhaps close in time to Vulcanodon.  A link to palaeos com Sinemurian age is tentatively suggested.  (The Dinosauricon entry for web page Chinshakiangosaurus has the date as late Jurassic, but this is most probably an error.)

Damalosaurus spp. Zhao 1983
Yet another brief reference to a far-east Asian early Jurassic sauropod, this one from Tibet [Peter M. Galton, "Herbivorous adaptions of dinosaurs, p.208; in The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, ed. K.Padian].  As the link to palaeos com Sinemurian Scelidosaurus also has been supposedly reported from Tibet [unfortunately my only reference here is David Lambert's Field Guide to Dinosaurs], these two may possibly have been contemporary.  Mike Keesey [web pageDamalasaurus page] gives the age as Middle Jurassic, the locality as China (tsk tsk!), and suggests this genus may possibly be a Brachiosaur.  Of course it might also be a distinct lineage of primitive sauropod.
D. laticostalis Zhao, 1985
D. magnus
Both these species are now considered invalid [nomen nudum].

Zizhongosaurus chuanchengensis Dong, Zhou, and Zhang 1983
Da'znzhai Formation, Sichuan, China
 Some post-crania
estimated length: 9 meters

printed book The Dinosauria, p.78
web pageZizhongosaurus page [Dinosauricon]

Ohmdenosaurus liasicus Wild, 1978
 Posidonienschiefer, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany
Age: Middle link to palaeos com Toarcian
 Limb bone
 Estimated overall length: 4 metres
This very small, primitive sauropod is known only from a single limb bone, once thought to belong to a plesiosaur.  Although classified under the family Vulcanodontidae it may instead belong to a distinct group, which might be called family Ohmdenosauridae.  It had no clear descendents, and may have been one of the many types of dinosaur that were wiped out by the terminal Toarcian extinction event.

family Barapasauridae

Barapasaurus tagorei - reconstructed skeleton
Barapasaurus - (drawing copyright external linkØyvind M. Padron)

Barapasaurus tagorei Jain, Kutty, Roy-Chowdhury, & Chatterjee, 1975
Kota Formation, Andhra Pradesh, India
Length: 14.5 to 18 metres;   Weight: 13 to 25 tonnes
Remains of 6 partial skeletons (missing skull & feet)
link to palaeos com Toarcian

The first of the really big sauropods, Baraposaurus equalled in size the giants of the later Jurassic.  In structure however it was much more primitive, resembling  Vulcanodon in many features of the skeleton.  As befits its transitional nature, it is sometimes included under the Vulcanodontidae, sometimes under the Cetiosauridae, and sometimes in its own family.  Barapasaurus is another example of "mosaic evolution" among transitional forms.  According to the Argentine palaeontologist Jose Bonaparte the dorsal vertebrae of Barapasaurus are of the standard Cetiosaur grade, with a tall neural arch and zygapophyses far above the neural canal; much more advanced the vertebrae of Vulcanodon.

printed bookJose Bonaparte, 1986, "The early radiation and phylogenetic relationships of the Jurassic sauropod dinosaurs, based on vertebral anatomy", in The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, ed. K.Padian]

Kotasaurus yamanpalliensis Yadagiri, 1988
Kota Formation, Andhra Pradesh, India
Length: 6 metres
partial skeletons
link to palaeos com Toarcian

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page history

page uploaded 22 November 1998
modified 8 October 1999
revised again 28 December