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>What's the current thinking about _Masitisisauropus_?...I don't recall
ever hearing about this animal.<
It's not an animal, it's an ichnotaxon -- a footprint name, not an
animal name. At any rate, the tongue-twisting ichnotaxon was considered
the 4-digit manus print of a web-footed, three-toed footprint from the Late
Triassic/Early Jurassic of Lesotho (southern Africa) named by Ellenberger
in '74. See:
Ellenberger, P. 1972. Contribution a la classification des pistes de
vertebres du Trias: les types du Stormberg d'Afrique du Sud (I).
_Palaeovertebrata Memoire Extraordinaire 1972 Montpellier_: 1-134.
Ellenberger, P. 1974. Contribution a la classification des pistes de
vertebres du Trias: les types du Stormberg d'Afrique du Sud (II).
_Palaeovertebrata Memoire Extraordinaire 1974 Montpellier_: 1-147.
Ellenberger was a notorious ichnotaxonomic splitter, and a lot of the
ichnogenera he created have been sunk into existing forms -- everytime a
particular ichnotaxon changed morphology, even slightly, due to substrate
differences, etc., it got a new name -- a practice no one in ichnology of
which I'm aware does anymore. Ellenberger claimed the print was surrounded
by elongate, roughly radially distributed impressions, which he claimed
were feather impressions. (It was never clear to me why, if he thought it
was the print of a bird, it had 4 digits and was ambulating
quadrupedally...) Anyway, the "impressions" are completely invisible in
the photos in the monograph on the Lesotho prints, and the few people I've
heard who ever saw the prints say that there _are_ no impressions. Along
this line, one must also keep in mind that Ellenberger is also the
individual who named and originally described _Cosesaurus_ as an avian
ancestor, and he originally described _that_ fossil as being surrounded by
feather impressions, too, although that didn't hold up under further
Ellenberger, P. and de Villalta, J.F. 1974. Sur la présence d'un ancêtre
probable des Oiseaux dane le Muschelkalk supériur de Catalogne (Espagne).
Note préliminaire. _Acta Geológica Hispanica_ 9: 162-168
Ellenberger, P. 1977. Quelques precisions sur l'anatomie et la place
systematique tres speciale de _Cosesaurus aviceps_. _Cuadernos Geología
Ibérica_ 4: 169-188.
Sanz, J.L. and Lopez-Martinez, N. 1984. The prolacertid lepidosaurian
_Cosesaurus aviceps_ Ellenberger & Villalta, a claimed "protoavian" from
the Middle Triassic of Spain. _Geobios_ 17: 747-753.
Milner, A.R. 1985. _Cosesaurus_ - the last proavian? _Nature_ 315: 544.
Interestingly, another footprint taxon decribed by Ellenberger from
Lesotho, _Trisauropodiscus aviforma_, though lacking any sort of "feather
impression," was more recently considered possibly avian by:
Lockley, M.G., Yang, S.Y., Matsukawa, M., Fleming, F., and Lim, S.K. 1992.
The track record of Mesozoic birds: evidence and implications.
_Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B_ 336:
Hope this helps!
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Jerry D. Harris
Fossil Preparation Lab
New Mexico Museum of Natural History
1801 Mountain Rd NW
Albuquerque NM 87104-1375
Phone: (505) 899-2809
Fax: ; (505) 841-2866