“”Riojasaurus”” was a herbivorous sauropodomorph dinosaur named after La Rioja Province in Argentina where it was found by José Bonaparte. It lived during the Late Triassic and grew to about 10 m long. “Riojasaurus” is the only known riojasaurid to live in South America.
“Riojasaurus” had a heavy body, bulky legs, and a long neck and tail. Its leg bones were dense and massive for an early sauropodomorph. By contrast, its vertebrae were lightened by hollow cavities, and unlike most early sauropodomorphs, “Riojasaurus” had four sacral vertebrae instead of three. It probably moved slowly on all fours and was unable to rear up on its back legs. The nearly equal length of the fore and hindlimbs is also suggestive of an obligatorily quadrupedal gait.
No skull was found with the first skeleton of “Riojasaurus”, although a well-preserved skull attributed to “Riojasaurus” was found later. The teeth of “Riojasaurus” were leaf shaped and serrated. The upper jaw contained 5 teeth at the front, with 24 more behind them in a row that ended under the eyes.
Comparisons between the scleral rings of “Riojasaurus” and modern birds and reptiles suggest that it may have been cathemeral, active throughout the day at short intervals.
Many scientists think that “Riojasaurus” was closely related to “Melanorosaurus”, known from the Triassic-Early Jurassic period. However, studies at Bristol University, England, suggest that it is unique in some key ways, such as the longer bones in its neck. It is certainly quite different from other sauropodomorphs found in the Los Colorados Formation of Argentina.
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