Imagine stepping back in time, to an era when colossal creatures roamed the Earth. Among these magnificent beasts, there was one that stood out—not for its size or ferocity, but for its unique characteristics and the region it called home. This creature is none other than the Amazonsaurus, a dinosaur whose name literally translates to “Amazon lizard”.
The Amazonsaurus, an herbivorous sauropod, hails from the Early Cretaceous period. Its name is derived from the Amazon region of Brazil where its fossils were first discovered and paints a vivid picture of this dinosaur’s origins. This fascinating creature, with its long neck and tail, is a testament to the diverse and vibrant life that once thrived on our planet.
|Meaning of name||Amazon lizard|
|Type Species||Amazonsaurus maranhensis|
|When it Lived||122.46 to 105.3 MYA|
|Epoch||Late/Upper Aptian to Middle Albian|
|First Discovery||1993 by Ismar de Souza Carvalho, Leonardo dos Santos Avilla and Leonardo Salgado|
|Location of first find||Itapecuru Formation (Maranhão), Brazil|
|First Described by||2003 by Ismar de Souza Carvalho, Leonardo dos Santos Avilla, Leonardo Salgado|
|Holotype||MN 4558-V; UFRJ-DG 58-R/9|
Amazonsaurus Origins: Taxonomy, Timeline, and Discovery
The Amazonsaurus, or “Amazon lizard”, is a captivating creature that once roamed the Earth during the Early Cretaceous period. Its name is a combination of the Amazon region of Brazil where its fossils were first discovered and ‘sauros’, the Greek word for lizard.
A member of the sauropod group, the Amazonsaurus is part of the Rebbachisauridae family. Its type species is Amazonsaurus maranhensis. Typical to sauropods, it was an herbivore that fed on the lush vegetation of its time.
It lived during the Early Cretaceous period, specifically from the Late Aptian to Middle Albian epochs. This places its existence between 122.46 and 105.3 million years ago, a time when dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates.
The first discovery of the Amazonsaurus was made in 1993 in the Itapecuru Formation in Maranhão, Brazil. It was the first genus of dinosaur to have been named from the Amazon Basin.
The discovery of the Amazonsaurus in the Itapecuru Formation in Maranhão, Brazil provided the first glimpse into this dinosaur’s existence in 1993, but these fossils were not described until 2003 by Carvalho, Avilla, and Salgado.
The fossils of the Amazonsaurus so far include back and tail vertebrae, ribs, and fragments of the pelvis. These remains are the only dinosaur fossils identifiable at the generic level from the Itapecuru Formation, which dates back to the Aptian through Albian epochs of the Early Cretaceous Period.
These fossils were recovered in sediments which are interpreted by geologists as floodplain deposits near a river delta. Therefore, this suggests that the Amazonsaurus lived in a lush, fertile environment with abundant vegetation that it would have fed on.
Amazonsaurus Size and Description
As a result of being a member of the sauropod group, this dinosaur was a large-bodied quadrupedal herbivore with a long neck and a whip-like tail. Let’s take a closer look at its physical characteristics.
Short description of Amazonsaurus
The Amazonsaurus was a diplodocoid sauropod, characterized by its long neck and tail. Its body shape was typical of sauropods, with a large, barrel-shaped body supported by four sturdy legs. Its tail, long and flexible, may have served as a counterbalance for its long neck and could also have been used for defense against predators.
It moved on all four legs, a characteristic common among sauropods. Its speed is unknown, but like most sauropods, it was likely a slow-moving creature due to its large size making quick movements challenging.
Size and Weight of Type Species
It was probably not more than 12 meters (40 ft) long. In terms of weight, Gregory S. Paul estimated in 2010 that the Amazonsaurus could have weighed up to 5000 kg (5 tons). Consequently, this makes the Amazonsaurus a relatively small sauropod, as some members of this group were among the largest animals to have ever lived.
The Dinosaur in Detail
This dinosaur shared most of its features with other sauropods. For example, the long neck that allowed it to reach vegetation that other herbivores couldn’t. This gave the Amazonsaurus a significant advantage when it came to finding food, especially during times when resources were scarce.
The Amazonsaurus also had a long, flexible tail. This tail could have served multiple purposes. It may have been a counterbalance for the dinosaur’s long neck, helping it to maintain balance as it moved. Moreover, it might have been for defense, capable of delivering powerful blows to any predators that got too close.
It would have moved much like its relatives—slowly and on all four legs. This kind of locomotion allows it to conserve energy due to its massive size and navigate its environment with ease.
The Amazonsaurus in its Natural Habitat and Environment
South America at this time would have been a lush, fertile environment abundant in the vegetation that it would have fed on. This is supported by the fact that the fossils were recovered in sediments interpreted as floodplain deposits near a river delta. The climate during the Early Cretaceous period was warm, and this region was dominated by shallow seas and vast river systems. The vegetation during this time was diverse, with ferns, cycads, and the first flowering plants beginning to appear.
As an herbivorous dinosaur, it would have fed on the abundant vegetation in its environment. Its long neck would have allowed it to reach vegetation that other herbivores couldn’t, reducing its competition when it came to finding food. It’s likely that the Amazonsaurus was a slow-moving creature, its large size making quick movements challenging. This, combined with its herbivorous diet, suggests that the Amazonsaurus was a grazer that spent much of its time feeding on low-lying vegetation. Similar to other large herbivores, this dinosaur would have had a significant impact on its environment by shaping the landscape through its feeding habits and potentially influencing the distribution of plant species.
Interesting Points about the Amazonsaurus
- It is the first named dinosaur genus from the Amazon Basin, marking an important event in the region’s rich paleontological history.
- Despite being a sauropod, it was relatively small compared to other members of its group. It was likely not more than 12 meters (40 ft) long and could have weighed up to 5000 kg (5 tons).
- It had a long neck and a long, flexible tail. These features not only allowed it to reach vegetation that other herbivores couldn’t, but also served as a defense mechanism against predators.
- The discovery in the Itapecuru Formation in Maranhão, Brazil, marked a significant milestone in paleontology. The fossils found in 1993 are the only dinosaur fossils identifiable at the generic level from this formation.
- It lived in a lush, fertile environment, abundant in the vegetation that it would have fed on. This is suggested by the fact that the fossils were recovered in sediments interpreted as floodplain deposits near a river delta.
The Amazonsaurus shared this fertile environment with an exciting range of South American dinosaurs. These fellow dinosaurs each highlighted the similarities and differences of adaptations in this part of the world when compared to the Amazonsaurus.
Consider the Tapuiasaurus, a dinosaur that—while smaller than the Amazonsaurus—was no less significant in the prehistoric landscape. The potential interactions between these two herbivores paint a vivid picture of coexistence. They may have grazed side by side, their diets possibly overlapping, leading to a subtle competition for the same resources. However, their size difference might have led them to different feeding heights, allowing them to coexist without direct competition.
On the other hand, the presence of carnivores such as the Spinosaurus and Santanaraptor would have added a different dynamic to the life of the Amazonsaurus. The Spinosaurus was significantly larger than the Amazonsaurus. It might have posed a threat with its towering sail-like spine as a constant reminder of the predator-prey relationship in this ancient world. The smaller Santanaraptor, while not a direct threat to a fully grown Amazonsaurus, might have targeted the young or the weak. These potential interactions, while speculative, help us understand the intricate web of relationships that characterized the world of the Amazonsaurus.
Frequently Asked Questions
It lived during the Early Cretaceous period. More specifically from the Late Aptian to Middle Albian epochs, between 122.46 and 105.3 million years ago.
The first fossils were discovered in the Itapecuru Formation in Maranhão, Brazil.
It was an herbivore, feeding on the lush vegetation of its environment.
It was likely not more than 40 ft long and could have weighed up to 5 tons.
Some unique features include its long neck and tail. They not only allowed it to reach vegetation that other herbivores couldn’t, but also served as a defense mechanism against predators.
The name translates to “Amazon lizard”. The “Amazon” part of its name is derived from the Amazon region of Brazil where its fossils were first discovered, while “sauros” is the Greek word for lizard.
Please note that this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the Amazonsaurus. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.
This article was last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-09-2023