Fossil Friday: Sarahsaurus

chibiSarahsaurus

Species: Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis (Sah-rah-saw-rus aw-ree-fon-tah-nah-lees)

What it means: Sarah’s lizard

Other species: none

Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation

When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.

My favorite food: Plants! I’m an herbivore.

Size_Sarah_flat

My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.

A few of my neighbors: I have to watch out for predators like Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator and Coelophysis, but little Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaur) is a much smaller, friendlier neighbor. Frogs, turtles, and a few crocodile cousins stay close to the rivers. A long-tailed pterosaur patrols the skies for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly.

Fun Facts:

  • As you might guess from my long neck, I am related to long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods! But I’m not quite a sauropod yet. See my strong hands? Some paleontologists think I might enjoy a few meaty snacks along with the plants. A habit that I get from some earlier relatives.
  • Names of prehistoric critters often describe where an animal was found, or honor a person. In my case, it’s both! Sarahsaurus honors actress and philanthropist Sarah Butler, who helped fund a paleontology exhibit called the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature and Science Center in Austin, TX. Sarah + sauros (Greek for lizard). The rest of my name comes from aurum (Latin for gold) + fontanalis (Latin for “of the spring”) = Gold Spring, Arizona.

Fossil Finds: A few individuals. One of these is a partial skeleton and nearly complete skull that was split down the middle. Another is a beautiful articulated skeleton that is almost complete, and almost all the bones lie where you’d expect them too. It even has many parts of the skull.

Resources:

Adam D. Marsh, Timothy B. Rowe (2018):Anatomy and systematics of the sauropodomorph Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis from the Early Jurassic Kayenta Formation

Ball, Andrea. “Introducing the Sarahsaurus.” Statesman News Network, Gannet Co. Inc., 21 Sept. 2012, https://www.statesman.com/article/20120921/NEWS/309219169

20 thoughts on “Fossil Friday: Sarahsaurus

  1. I wasn’t expecting a Sarahsaurus post, but it’s good to see it here. I wonder, how did you decide on it over some of the other creatures? I’m not going to lie, but I’m grateful that a basal sauropodomorph has an appearance on your website. I’d like to see it with a COTM post (probably called either Sara, Sarah, or Sarasota), but good job adding another sauropodomorph to the site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Angel, thank you for stopping by! I’m glad you like her. I do plan on adding her to the shop eventually and calling her Sarah. 🙂

      I’ve been alternating between better known (as in, better fossil material) and fragmentary species. Many animals in the Kayenta formation, especially the non-dinosaurs, are fragmentary and don’t have very much information. So those take a bit of research even for these tiny posts.

      For Prosalirus, for example, I didn’t want to just draw a frog and call it a day, I dug around fossil descriptions of it to see what made it different from regular frogs. In the end it didn’t matter much, since it’s similar enough to modern frogs that the differences aren’t really noticeable in the cartoony style I’m drawing these in, but it was good to look into it.

      Sarahsaurus had more illustrations and fossil photos to go on, and so was very easy to draw quickly. I also really wanted to feature a basal sauropodomorph, because they don’t get enough love. 😀

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      1. I can agree that more well-known fossil fauna should take priority than fragmentary creatures. And I do like the idea of adding a female Sarahsaurus named Sarah soon. And I have to agree to your opinion on basal sauropodomorphs; they need more attention. If you didn’t know, my favorite dinosaur is Plateosaurus

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  2. Thank you for posting this! I noticed that you have been oing a lot of early Jurassic animals lately. Will you be doing the primitive crocodilian Protosuchus or the mammal Morganucodon sometime in the future?

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    1. Hi Jason, thank you so much for stopping by! I’m glad you like this one, I love basal sauropodomorphs, and they don’t get enough love. 😀

      Eventually I would love to feature all known valid taxa from the Jurassic period with these Fossil Friday posts! I’m going through them by formation, so it may be a while for Protosuchus and Morganucodon to be featured, since they’re not from the Kayenta formation.

      A little reading shows that Protosuchus comes from the Dinosaur Canyon locality. I like to showcase the “milestone” creatures best, and give lesser known ones some love, so I may explore Dinosaur Canyon once the Kayenta critters are done. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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