First Adult Record of Tanystropheus from China

Rieppel, O., Jiang, D.-Y., Fraser, N. C., Hao, W.-C., Motani, R., Sun, Y.-L., and Z.-Y., Sun. 2010. Tanystropheus cf. T. longobardicus from the early Late Triassic of Guizhou Province, southwestern China.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30:1082 - 1089. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2010.483548

Abstract - The protorosaur Tanystropheus longobardicus is well known from the Middle Triassic of alpine Europe. It has been described on the basis of a number of specimens that apparently range from juvenile to adult. The largest specimens have a total body length of approximately 3 m. Here we report on the first occurrence of a large tanystropheid from the Middle or early Late Triassic of southwestern China. The new specimen is indistinguishable from the largest specimens of T. longobardicus from Europe, although it lacks a skull. Both the Chinese specimen here described and the European specimens of T. longobardicus are characterized by 13 cervical vertebrae (not 12 as had previously been assumed). The new find, together with a recent specimen of Macrocnemus from Yunnan Province, highlight shared elements of the vertebrate fauna around the coastline of western and eastern Tethys during Middle to Late Triassic times.


  1. Minor nitpick with the post title, in fact this isn't the first report of Tanystropheus in China, but the first well-preserved adult. Li (2007) reported a juvenile from the same formation:

    Li C. 2007. A juvenile Tanystropheus sp. (Protorosauria, Tanystropheidae) from the Middle Triassic of Guizhou, China. VERTEBRATA PALASIATICA 45(1) pages 41-53.

  2. Thanks. One of the rules of blogging is that if you don't get your facts straight, your readers will catch you every time.

  3. Neil said

    "Minor nitpick with the post title, in fact this isn't the first report of Tanystropheus in China, but the first well-preserved adult. Li (2007) reported a juvenile from the same formation:"

    The title emphasizes the word "adult", so Rieppel et al's title is correct in claiming a 'first'

  4. I added the word adult to the title after the first comment. Sorry for the confusion.

  5. Incidentally, this might not be a bad place to ask a question that has been bugging me: In that Robert Long book about PEFO (Dawn of the Dinosaurs, I think it's called) Doug Henderson has an illustration of Tanystropheus, is that just a "T. willistoni" related mix-up or is there actual material of Tanystropheus known from the southwest?

    Also, what's the deal with the supposed "pachypleurosaur" from the Wupatki member of the Moenkopi? I seem to remember an SVP poster about that some time back but has it been published anywhere?

  6. @Neil,

    The Petrified Forest DOD book contains lots of animals as hypothesized by Robert Long as a result of 5 seasons of field work in the park. According to his unpublished notes a small specimen of Tanystropheus was recovered from the Chinle of Arizona in 1981. I assume this would be a cervical vertebra, but unfortunately there is no more information provided and this occurrence does not show up again in any subsequent reference. The DOD book also shows a procolophonid, which also don't occur in the park (same with the pterosaur, cynodont, etc.).

    A partial rib of Tanytrachelos was recovered from the nearby Placerias Quarry and documented by Kaye and Padian (1994)in the In the Shadow of the Dinosaurs volume.

    The Moenkopi "pachypleurosaur" is mentioned by Nesbitt (2005) as a "diapsid" and is currently under study by him. This article is in the Mesa Southwest Museum Bulletin #9 in a special volume we published for the SVP meeting fieldtrip we led that year.

  7. Thanks Bill!

    That answers my questions. If you happen to have a digital copy of that Nesbitt (2005) paper I'd love a copy (or indeed the entire Bulletin if that was easier)

    npkelleyca at gmail dot com


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