Most recent studies of dinosaur phylogeny have concentrated on theropods and ornithischians. As a result, the evolutionary relationships of sauropod dinosaurs are poorly understood. In this paper previous studies of sauropod phylogeny are reviewed and contrasted with the results of a recent cladistic analysis. This analysis forms the basis for a reconstruction of sauropod phylogeny. Sauropods diverged from other dinosaurs at some time in the Upper Triassic, but a large part of their early history is totally unknown. Vulcanodon is currently the most primitive sauropod. Many, but perhaps not all, of the Jurassic Chinese sauropods form a monophyletic radiation (the Euhelopodidae) which may reflect the geographic isolation of China during the Lower Jurassic. Members of the Euhelopodidae, such as Mamenchisaurus, are not considered to be closely related to the Diplodocidae. `Forked' chevrons, which have played such an important role in previous studies of sauropod phylogeny, are here considered to have evolved twice within the Sauropoda. This convergence may reflect a correlation between chevron shape and the use of the tail as a weapon within these two sauropod families. The `Neosauropoda' (sister group to the Euhelopodidae) contains the Brachiosauridae, Camara-sauridae and the new superfamilies Titanosauroidea and Diplodocoidea. The Cetiosauridae (here defined in a rather restricted sense) is also provisionally included within the Neosauropoda, but may be removed in future studies. The enigmatic Upper Cretaceous sauropod, Opisthocoelicaudia, is thought to be the sister taxon to the Titanosauridae and not a camarasaurid as previously suggested. The Diplodocoidea contains two well established families, the Dicraeosauridae and Diplodocidae, and the new family Nemegtosauridae. Finally, an overview of sauropod phylogeny is compared with recently published palaeogeographic reconstructions. There are many difficulties associated with the analysis of sauropod biogeographic distribution. Nevertheless, some aspects of sauropod phylogeny may be linked to the break-up of Laurasia and Gondwanaland during the Jurassic and Cretaceous.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B
- Pub Date:
- September 1995