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Plateosaurus BW

Reconstruction of two P. engelhardti

Plateosaurus ("broad lizard") is a sauropodomorph dinosaur of Late Triassic Europe.


Plateosaurus is often known as a "prosauropod",[1] although it is more correctly known as a form of basal sauropodomorph.[2] It had a fairly typical body shape of these animals, with a small head, long neck, stocky body, and long tail.[3] Plateosaurus was bipedal, and had digitigrade feet.[4]

Fully grown specimens of Plateosaurus engelhardti reached 5 to 10 meters in length[5], while those of P. gracilis reached only 4 to 5 meters in length.[6]


Plateosaurus is a primitive sauropodomorph, and gives its name to the clade Plateosauria.[7] Although many species have been named in the past, only two species of Plateosaurus (P. engelhardti and P. gracilis) are currently considered valid.[8]


In 1834, Johann Friedrich Engelhardt discovered miscellaneous vertebrae and leg material near Nuremburg, Germany. Three years later, they were described by Hermann von Meyer as Plateosaurus engelhardti.[9] Since then, hundreds of specimens have been discovered throughout Europe.

In 1997, workers on an oil rig in the North Sea discovered a fossil in a sandstone drill core. It was later determined to be a fragment of Plateosaurus limb bone.[10]



The posture of Plateosaurus has been the subject of much debate. Friedrich von Huene assumed that Plateosaurus was bipedal,[11] while paleontologist Otto Jaekel believed it was quadrupedal.[12] Both scientists were well acquainted with the animal's remains.

The debate was settled in 2007 when Matthew Bonnan and Phil Senter showed that basal sauropodomorphs could not pronate their hands (which allows for quadrupedal locomotion). They found that quadrupedal mounts of Plateosaurus were achieved by switching the position of the radius and ulna in the animal's arm, and such a posture could not occur in real life.[13] This indicated that Plateosaurus was strictly bipedal. The dinosaur's center of mass also rests firmly over the hind limbs.[3]


The teeth of Plateosaurus are similar to those of modern herbivorous reptiles such as iguanas.[14] In 2000, Paul Barrett speculated that Plateosaurus may have supplemented its herbivorous diet with small animals or carrion on occasion.[15]


  1. Huene, F. von (1932). "Die fossile Reptil-Ordnung Saurischia, ihre Entwicklung und Geschichte" [The fossil order of reptiles Saurischia, their development and history]. Monographien zur Geologie und Paläontologie (in German) 4: 1–361.
  2. Yates, A.M. (2010). "A revision of the problematic sauropodomorph dinosaurs from Manchester, Connecticut and the status of Anchisaurus Marsh". Palaeontology 53 (4): 739–752. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00952.x.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mallison, H. (2010). "The digital Plateosaurus II: an assessment of the range of motion of the limbs and vertebral column and of previous reconstructions using a digital skeletal mount". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (3): 433–458. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0075.
  4. Christian, Andreas; Koberg, Dorothee; Preuschoft, Holger (1996). "Shape of the pelvis and posture of the hindlimbs in Plateosaurus". Palaeontologische Zeitschrift 70 (3–4): 591–601. doi:10.1007/BF02988095.
  5. Mallison, H. (2010). "The digital Plateosaurus I: body mass, mass distribution and posture assessed using CAD and CAE on a digitally mounted complete skeleton". Palaeontologia Electronica. 13.2.8A.
  6. Yates, A.M. (2003). "Species taxonomy of the sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the Löwenstein Formation (Norian, Late Triassic) of Germany". Palaeontology 46 (2): 317–337. doi:10.1111/j.0031-0239.2003.00301.x.
  7. Galton, Peter M. (2001). "The prosauropod dinosaur Plateosaurus Meyer, 1837 (Saurischia: Sauropodomorpha; Upper Triassic). II. Notes on the referred species". Revue Paléobiologie, Genève 20 (2): 435–502.
  8. Moser, M. (2003). open access PDF "Plateosaurus engelhardti Meyer, 1837 (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha) aus dem Feuerletten (Mittelkeuper; Obertrias) von Bayern" [Plateosaurus engelhardti Meyer, 1837 (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha) from the Feuerletten (Mittelkeuper; Obertrias) of Bavaria]. Zitteliana Reihe B, Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie (in German with extended English summary) 24: 1–186. OCLC 54854853.
  9. Meyer, H. von (1837). "Mitteilung an Prof. Bronn (Plateosaurus engelhardti" [message to Prof. Bronn (Plateosaurus engelhardti)]. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie (in German) 1837: 316.
  10. Hurum, J.H.; Bergan, M.; Müller, R.; Nystuen, J.P.; Klein, N. (2006). "A Late Triassic dinosaur bone, offshore Norway". Norwegian Journal of Geology 86: 117–123.
  11. Huene, F. von (1907–1908). "Die Dinosaurier der europäischen Triasformation mit Berücksichtigung der aussereuropäischen Vorkommnisse" [The dinosaurs of the European Triassic Formation, with consideration of non-European occurrences]. Geologische und Paläontologische Abhandlungen, Supplement-Band (in German) 1: 1–419. Link to full text only available in US
  12. Jaekel, O. (1910). "Die Fussstellung und Lebensweise der grossen Dinosaurier" [The foot posture and mode of life of the large dinosaurs]. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Geologischen Gesellschaft, Monatsberichte (in German) 62 (4): 270–277.
  13. Bonnan, Matthew; Senter, Phil (2007), "Were the basal sauropodomorph dinosaurs Plateosaurus and Massospondylus habitual quadrupeds?", in Barrett, P.M.; Batten, D.J., Evolution and Palaeobiology of Early Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs (Special Papers in Palaeontology 77), Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 139–155, ISBN 978-1-4051-6933-2.
  14. Galton, Peter M.; Upchurch, Paul (2004), "Prosauropoda", in Weishampel, D.B.; Dodson, P.; Osmólska, H., The Dinosauria (2 ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 232–258, ISBN 978-0-520-25408-4.
  15. Barrett, Paul M. (2000), "Prosauropod dinosaurs and iguanas: Speculations on the diets of extinct reptiles", in Sues, H.-D., Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates: Perspectives from the Fossil Record, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 42–78, ISBN 0-521-59449-9.

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