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Nyasasaurus parringtoni

Reptilia -

Discussion

Nyasasaurus parringtoni is based upon postcranial material collected from the Middle Triassic of Tanzania. The name was first used by British palaeontologist Alan Charig in the 1960s, but was only formally published in early 2013 (appeared online in late 2012). Although fragmentary, the holotype specimen includes character states that suggest dinosaur affinities (e.g. elongated deltopectoral crest on humerus, three sacral vertebrae, histological features). If correctly identified, this would be the oldest dinosaur body fossil yet discovered, preceding other early dinosaur fossils by 10-15 million years. However, it is possible that rather than a true dinosaur, Nyasasaurus might instead represent the closest known relative of dinosaurs. Etymology: Nyasa, from Lake Nyasa near the type locality, and sauros, Greek for lizard; parringtoni, in honour of Francis Rex Parrington, collector of the holotype.

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Taxonomy
Nyasasaurus parringtoni was named by Nesbitt et al. (2013) [Genus and species name have appeared in various publications since the 1960s as nomina nuda attributed to Charig. Species name formally published only in late 2012 (publication dated 2013)]. Its type specimen is NHMUK R6856, a set of postcrania (Right humerus, three partial presacral vertebrae and three sacral vertebrae), and it is a 3D body fossil. Its type locality is Parrington locality B36, near Mkongoleko, which is in an Anisian terrestrial siliciclastic in the Manda Beds Formation of Tanzania. It is the type species of Nyasasaurus.

Synonyms
  • Thecodontosaurus alophos was named by Haughton (1932). Its type specimen is SAM-PK-K10654, a set of vertebrae (Three cervical vertebrae and two posterior presacral vertebrae), and it is a 3D body fossil. Its type locality is B27, Gingama, which is in an Anisian terrestrial horizon in the Manda Beds Formation of Tanzania.

    It was synonymized subjectively with Nyasasaurus parringtoni by Nesbitt et al. (2013).
Synonymy list
YearName and author
1932Thecodontosaurus alophos Haughton pp. 662-664 fig. 19
1954Thecodontosaurus alophos Haughton and Brink p. 34
1970Thecodontosaurus alophos Steel p. 52
2013Nyasasaurus parringtoni Nesbitt et al. p. 1 fig. 1

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RankNameAuthor
kingdomAnimalia()
Triploblastica
Nephrozoa
Deuterostomia
phylumChordataHaeckel 1847
subphylumVertebrata
superclassGnathostomata
Osteichthyes()
Sarcopterygii
subclassDipnotetrapodomorpha(Nelson 2006)
subclassTetrapodomorpha()
Tetrapoda()
Reptiliomorpha
Anthracosauria
Batrachosauria()
Cotylosauria()
Amniota
Sauropsida
classReptilia
RankNameAuthor
subclassEureptilia()
Romeriida
Diapsida()
Eosuchia()
Neodiapsida
SauriaGauthier 1984
Archosauromorpha(Huene 1946)
Crocopoda
ArchosauriformesGauthier 1986
Eucrocopoda
Archosauria()
informalAvemetatarsalia
Ornithodira
Dinosauromorpha
Dinosauriformes
Dinosauria()
genusNyasasaurus
speciesparringtoni

If no rank is listed, the taxon is considered an unranked clade in modern classifications. Ranks may be repeated or presented in the wrong order because authors working on different parts of the classification may disagree about how to rank taxa.

Diagnosis
ReferenceDiagnosis
S. J. Nesbitt et al. 2013Nyasasaurus parringtoni was a 2–3 metre long (estimated from vertebral dimensions) dinosauriform with the following unique combination of humeral character states: ventrally elongated deltopectoral crest; laterally deflected apex of the deltopectoral crest; distinct notch central to the apex of the deltopectoral crest; pointed expansion on the proximal surface near the dorsal extent of the deltopectoral crest; proximal surface of the humerus continuous with the lateral surface of the deltopectoral crest; and distinct fossa present on the posterodorsal surface, just ventral to the proximal surface. Humeral histology indicates rapid growth characterized by complex vascularization, highly woven bone tissue and the absence of any lines of arrested growth. The vertebrae also have a distinct combination of character states, including: at least three sacral vertebrae; dorsoventrally tall sacral ribs; and hyposphene–hypantrum intervertebral articulations in the presacral vertebrae