Baiyinosaurus: An Early-Evolving Stegosaur from Middle Jurassic China

Baiyinosaurus: An Early-Evolving Stegosaur from Middle Jurassic China

In the heart of the Middle Jurassic Era, a remarkable dinosaur roamed the lush landscapes of nowadays Gansu Province in China. Known as Baiyinosaurus, this fascinating creature provides a glimpse into the evolutionary journey of stegosaurs. Published very recently in July 2024, Baiyinosaurus is fairly new to the stegosaur family, and more specimen needs to be found and described to understand this stegosaur fully. However, this article sums up what we already know.

Baiyinosaurus, meaning “Baiyin Reptile,” is named after the city where its fossils were unearthed. The significance of this finding is not just in the fossils themselves but in what they tell us about the transition between early thyreophorans and more derived stegosaurs. With its distinct features and the era it hails from, Baiyinosaurus offers a unique window into the past.

Baiyinosaurus Key Facts

Key FactsInformation
Meaning of nameBaiyin Reptile
Type SpeciesBaiyinosaurus baojiensis
When it Lived168.3 to 166.1MYA
PeriodMiddle Jurassic
EpochLate Bathonian
Length16.4 to 19.7 ft
Height4.3 to 5.6 ft at the hips
Weight1.3 to 2.0 tons
MobilityMoved on all four
First Discovery2016 by Dr. Li Daqing and his team
Described by2024 by Li Ning, Susannah C. R. Maidment, Li Daqing, You Hailu & Peng Guangzhao
Location of first findWangjiashan Formation, Gansu Province, China

Baiyinosaurus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

The name Baiyinosaurus is a nod to its origins, blending  “Baiyin,” the city where the holotype was found, with the Greek word “sauros,” meaning reptile. This highlights both its geographic and biological heritage, situating it firmly in the cultural and natural history of the region. The full name, Baiyinosaurus baojiensis, also references the Baoji Basin, highlighting the specific locale of this ancient discovery.

Baiyinosaurus | Discover the Stegosaur from the Middle Jurassic. Learn about Baiyinosaurus, an Early-diverging Stegosaur from the Middle Jurassic, unearthed in Gansu Province, China.
UnexpectedDinoLesson, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taxonomically, Baiyinosaurus belongs to the group Thyreophora, within the clade Stegosauria. Its type species, Baiyinosaurus baojiensis, being recently described in 2024, is the sole species of the genus. It is placed amongst the early-diverging stegosaurs, a group that would develop distinctive armored plates and spikes, which would later become more pronounced in more derived taxa.

Baiyinosaurus lived during the Middle Jurassic Period (Bathonian, approximately 168.3 to 166.1 million years ago). This time frame is crucial for understanding the early diversification of stegosaurs, as it marks a period when these dinosaurs began to spread and evolve unique adaptations. The discovery of Baiyinosaurus, one of the oldest and early-diverging stegosaur, adds valuable data, helping paleontologists piece together the evolutionary puzzle of the Stegosauria.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Baiyinosaurus was found in 2016 by Dr. Li Daqing and his team, alongside other theropod and sauropod specimens, in the Straw-yellow Sandstone Member of the Wangjiashan Formation (Gansu Province, China). This formation, provided a rich context for the discovery, offering insights into the environment this dinosaur once inhabited. The holotype, designated as IVPG-D021, includes a partial skeleton with significant parts like a partial cranium, cervical vertebra, dorsal vertebrae, and a caudal vertebra. The degree of preservation in these fossils allows for detailed study and comparison with other stegosaurs and led to a significant description of the taxon Ning et al., 2024.

The partial cranium provides clues about its head shape and feeding habits, while the vertebrae give insights into its posture and movement. These remains paint a picture of a dinosaur well-adapted to its environment, with features that bridge the gap between early thyreophorans and more derived stegosaurs.

Baiyinosaurus Size and Description

Baiyinosaurus, though it might not have been as colossal as some of its dinosaurian contemporaries, is an important specimen for the evolutionary history of the Stegosauria. Its body was robust and likely armored, with distinct characteristics that set it apart from other stegosaurs (autapomorphies): a wider than long frontal (an interorbital skull bone), and short neural arches but wide parapophyses on the vertebrae. 

Short Description of Baiyinosaurus

The physical characteristics of Baiyinosaurus are intriguing. It is unsure if this dinosaur displayed an armored body, although this is a characteristic of more recent stegosaurs. Its head was relatively small compared to its body, with a beaked mouth suitable for its herbivorous diet. One thing to consider is that his head might have been larger than other stegosaurs, as it possesses an exceptionally wide frontal that would make the top of the head larger. It was however shorter in length than the one of Stegosaurus.

The neck was likely short and strong, leading to a series of vertebrae that supported a solid, compact body. The atlas vertebra was recovered and its centrum is bean-shaped in both anterior and posterior views.

No limb bones of Baiyinosaurus have been retrieved to this date. In alignment with the anatomy of other stegosaurs, the forelimbs were probably shorter than the hind limbs, which contributed to a sloping back. Its tail was muscular with sturdy caudal vertebrae and possibly featured spikes or small plates (although not found or preserved on the specimen), providing both defence and balance.


The skull of Baiyinosaurus, though not fully preserved, offers a glimpse into its feeding habits. Its beaked mouth and teeth indicate a diet of tough vegetation, 

Baiyinosaurus has his left dentary (the main bone of the lower jaw) almost completely preserved, which allows a complete description of the lower dentition of this herbivorous dinosaur. Unfortunately, the foremost part of the skull was not preserved and so the upper teeth.

The lower jaw contained a total of 18 tooth sockets, with teeth at various stages of eruption. As most non-avian dinosaurs, Baiyinosaurus had his teeth replaced continuously throughout his life. His teeth are nicely preserved and are triangular in lateral view. They display multiple small denticules on both the anterior and posterior facets, giving the teeth an irregular margin.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Baiyinosaurus baojiensis was likely a moderately sized stegosaur, although no size estimations have been done by researchers until now (July 2024). However, based on the fossils available and size estimations done on other Stegosaurs,  a rough estimate of the measurements of Baiyinosaurus can be done.

In length, Baiyinosaurus would have been between 16.4 and 19.7 feet, making it a substantial presence in its habitat. Standing 4.3 to 5.6 feet tall at the hips, it was lower to the ground compared to some other dinosaurs, emphasizing its quadrupedal stance. These dimensions suggest a dinosaur that was both formidable and adapted to a herbivorous lifestyle, able to browse vegetation at different levels.

Weighing in at approximately 1.3 to 2.0 tons, Baiyinosaurus is moderate in its ecosystem full of giants (in comparison, a small African forest elephant weighs a minimum of 2.7 tons). This mass would have required a robust skeletal structure and powerful muscles to support its movements and foraging activities.

These values are mere estimates based on the measurements of the bone fragments collected. As with most dinosaur estimations, these figures involve assumptions and comparisons with better-known species. Therefore, these values are to be confirmed by paleontologists in their future studies.

Baiyinosaurus and the evolution of the Stegosauria

The scientific importance of this taxon lies in its phylogenetic (=evolutionary tree) position in relation to other stegosaurs and how it shapes our understanding of the group. Coming from the Bathonian, Baiyinosaurus is one of the oldest stegosaur to be found up until now. Two other species are slightly older: Bashanosaurus and Isaberrysaurus. It retains some plesiomorphic characteristics (understand here as “archaic” characters, anatomical features that are displayed by more basal taxa in terms of evolution) mainly in the vertebrae morphology (a neural arch that is not greatly expanded dorsally), while displaying some derived characteristics like the anteroposterior extension of the neural arch. Hence, the configuration of its dorsal vertebrae shows characteristics transitional between early thyreophorans and more derived stegosaurs. 

As a result, Baiyinosaurus is considered an early member of the stegosaur family tree. It holds a basal position, meaning it diverged early in the evolutionary history of stegosaurs. This places Baiyinosaurus alongside other early stegosaurs like Isaberrysaura, Bashanosaurus, and Chungkingosaurus, which also represent some of the first branches in the stegosaur lineage. These primitive stegosaurs provide important insights into the initial stages of stegosaur evolution and how these fascinating dinosaurs developed over time. Baiyinosaurus, in particular, helps paleontologists understand the characteristics and adaptations of the earliest stegosaurs.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

One of the dinosaurs that shared the landscape with Baiyinosaurus was Adratiklit. This fellow stegosaur shared many physical traits with Baiyinosaurus, but is placed as a more derived taxon in the evolutionary tree of the Stegosauria. Their coexistence suggests a rich, diverse ecosystem where multiple stegosaur species could thrive.

Then there was Agilisaurus, a small ornithopod from China of only 3.5 to 4 feet in length. In comparison to Baiyinosaurus, Agilisaurus would have felt small and was likely hiding in the shadows. Both herbivorous, they lived peacefully alongside, sharing the feeding space

Aside from those, and possibly the sauropod Lapparentosaurus, very few fossil remains have been found from the Bathonian in comparison to other Mesozoic Periods. Mainly foot tracks have been recovered and studied. This highlights the importance of Baiyinosaurus to understanding the ecosystem in Bathonian time.

Interesting Points about Baiyinosaurus

Baiyinosaurus in its Natural Habitat

Baiyinosaurus thrived in a lush, verdant environment during the Middle Jurassic, characterized by a warm and humid climate. This region, now part of Gansu Province, China, was dominated by dense forests and abundant vegetation. It would have provided ample food sources for herbivores like Baiyinosaurus. The geography of the area, with its mix of deltas and floodplains, supported a diverse ecosystem where various dinosaur species could coexist.

Life reconstruction of Baiyinosaurus baojiensis.
Ddinodan, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a herbivore, Baiyinosaurus primarily fed on low-lying plants. Using its beaked mouth to strip foliage from ferns, cycads, and other vegetation. Flowering plants did not exist at the time. Its robust limbs and low stature suggest it was well-adapted to grazing. Built to be able to move efficiently on all fours to forage. The presence of other but bigger herbivores, such as sauropods, likely led to a stratification of feeding niches, reducing competition.

Baiyinosaurus likely moved in herds like other stegosaurs, a behavior common among many herbivorous dinosaurs to provide protection against predators. Its dermal plates, was not as pronounced as those of later stegosaurs. However, they offered some defense, and its tail could have been used to ward off attackers. Social behavior, such as herding, also facilitated communication and coordination within the group, enhancing survival chances.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was Baiyinosaurus discovered?

Baiyinosaurus was discovered in 2016 by Dr. Li Daqing and his team in the 
Wangjiashan Formation, Gansu Province, China.

What does the name Baiyinosaurus mean?

The name Baiyinosaurus means “Baiyin Reptile,” referencing the city where its fossils were found.

How large was Baiyinosaurus?

This estimate is based on the measurements of the bone fragments collected and comparisons with better-known species of stegosaurs. Baiyinosaurus measured approximately 16.4 to 19.7 feet, was 4.3 to 5.6 feet at the hips, weighing 1.3 to 2.0 tons.

What did Baiyinosaurus eat?

As a herbivore, Baiyinosaurus fed on low-lying plants, including ferns and cycads, using its beaked mouth to strip foliage.

What period did Baiyinosaurus live in?

Baiyinosaurus lived during the Middle Jurassic, specifically in the Bathonian, around 168.3 to 166.1 million years ago.

What distinguishes Baiyinosaurus from other Stegosaurs?

Baiyinosaurus is distinguished by its unique frontal bone, which is wider than long. It also has a combination of primitive and derived features, making it a transitional species among stegosaurs.


The information in 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 Baiyinosaurus. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

Article last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 07-02-2024

Featured Image Credit: UnexpectedDinoLesson, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Comment