Spinophorosaurus

Name: Spinophorosaurus ‭(‬Spine bearing lizard‭)‬.
Phonetic: Spy-noe-for-o-sore-us.
Named By: K.‭ ‬Remes,‭ ‬F.‭ ‬Ortega,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬Fierro,‭ ‬U.‭ ‬Joger,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬Kosma‭ & ‬J.‭ ‬N.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Ferrer‭ ‬-‭ ‬2009.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Dinosauria,‭ ‬Saurischia,‭ ‬Sauropoda.
Species: S.‭ ‬nigerensis‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: About‭ ‬13‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Niger,‭ ‬Agadez‭ ‬-‭ ‬Irhazer Group.
Time period: Middle Jurassic,‭ ‬possibly up to Oxfordian of the late Jurassic.‭ ‬See main text for details.
Fossil representation: Two almost complete individuals.

       Aside from being one of the best preserved Jurassic era sauropods from Africa,‭ ‬the features that really made people sit up and pay attention about Spinophorosaurus are the spiked osteoderms.‭ ‬Only a few of these were found,‭ ‬but the researchers involved with piecing Spinophorosaurus back together have come to the conclusion that these spikes most probably formed a thagomizer-like arrangement upon the end of the tail,‭ ‬similar to the thagomizers of some stegosaurid dinosaurs such as Stegosaurus and Tuojiangosaurus.‭ ‬Since the spikes of Spinophorosaurus were modified osteoderms,‭ ‬they did not attach directly to the skeleton,‭ ‬but instead were held in place by the skin and underlying soft tissues.
       Unfortunately at the time of the description,‭ ‬the age of the Spinophorosaurus could not be narrowed down to be any greater than some point between‭ ‬175‭ ‬to‭ ‬161‭ ‬million years ago.‭ ‬This time period would cover from the latest early Jurassic,‭ ‬the entire middle Jurassic as well as part of the first stage of the late Jurassic,‭ ‬the Oxfordian.‭ ‬Further remains,‭ ‬as well as increased future study and understanding of the fossil localities may one day yield a more refined age estimate.
       Spinophorosaurus however probably was not unique nor was it the first sauropod dinosaur to be discovered with a weapon on its tail.‭ ‬During the later stages of the middle Jurassic,‭ ‬a‭ ‬genus named Shunosaurus was roaming around what is now China,‭ ‬and these sauropods had spiked clubs upon the end of their tails.‭ ‬Interestingly,‭ ‬another genus of sauropod from the lower middle Jurassic of China named Nebulasaurus has been noted as having a very similar braincase to Spinophorosaurus.‭ ‬Unfortunately Nebulasaurus is still too incomplete for us to know if it too had a weaponised tail,‭ ‬but a picture seems to be slowly emerging of middle Jurassic sauropods across Africa and Asia that were far from defenceless from potential predators such as theropod dinosaurs.

Further reading
A new basal sauropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Niger and the early evolution of sauropoda‭ ‬-‭ ‬PLoS ONE‭ ‬4‭ (‬9‭) ‬-‭ ‬K.‭ ‬Remes,‭ ‬F.‭ ‬Ortega,‭ ‬I.‭ ‬Fierro,‭ ‬U.‭ ‬Joger,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬Kosma‭ & ‬J.‭ ‬N.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Ferrer‭ ‬-‭ ‬2009.



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