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RE: oldest sauropod found

Hi all:

Yeah, I got to review this paper prior to its publication, so I've been waiting anxiously to see it come out in press. You can see some of my brief comments at: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20030630/dino.html#

This is very cool because Antetonitrus helps to shake up current phylogenetic views on sauropod evolution. Yates and Kitching suggest certain prosauropods were in fact basal sauropods. Wow! Yates has already suggested and hinted at this in previous articles, but Antetonitrus is sure to get people's attentions about this debate, which begs the question: are prosauropods monophyletic or not?

For me, as a functional morphologist and someone interested in the evolution of sauropod locomotion, what a neat juxtaposition of characters: a humerus that looks like a prosauropod, but stretched out; a manus that looks like cross between a sauropod's and a prosauropod's; etc., etc. This means I need to look even more carefully at what prosauropods were doing with the forelimbs and manus, which sounds great to me -- I just returned from Berlin and Stuttgart, and I was able to get my hands on a number of prosauropod forelimbs. Awesome.

I haven't been this fascinated or excited by early sauropods in quite awhile -- this "new" specimen will certainly help us better decipher early sauropod evolution. In my personal opinion, I am really beginning to wonder if there is a prosauropod to sauropod grade, instead of a more monophyletic Prosauropoda. I know this smacks against everything cladist, and I am not dissing the cladistics method (check the archives for my various posting on cladistics), but it will be interesting to see how and if Prosauropoda becomes reconstituted phylogenetically, and what that will mean the evolution of locomotion in such giant herbivores.

Can you tell I'm excited?  It's a good time to be a sauropod researcher. =)


Matthew F. Bonnan, Ph.D.
Dept. Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University
Macomb, IL 61455
(309) 298-2155

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