Trigonosaurus

Trigonosaurus (/"try-GONE-oh-SORE-us"/; "triangle lizard") is a genus of titanosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period (Maastrichtian stage, approximately 72 to 66 million years ago) of Brazil. The fossil remains of Trigonosaurus were discovered in the Serra da Galga Formation in the state of Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil.

Description and Classification Trigonosaurus is a member of the Sauropoda, a diverse group of large, quadrupedal, herbivorous dinosaurs known for their elongated necks and tails. Within Sauropoda, Trigonosaurus is classified as a titanosaur, a successful and widespread clade that included some of the largest terrestrial animals known to have existed.

The most distinctive feature of Trigonosaurus is the unique triangular shape of some of its vertebrae when viewed from above, which is reflected in its genus name meaning "triangle lizard." This morphological characteristic sets Trigonosaurus apart from other titanosaurs and played a key role in its identification as a new taxon.

Currently, the known fossil material of Trigonosaurus is limited to several vertebrae, limb bones, and partial pelvic bones. Due to the incomplete nature of the remains, reconstructing the overall size and appearance of Trigonosaurus is challenging. However, as a titanosaur, it is presumed to have been a large-bodied dinosaur, but more complete specimens are needed to provide accurate size estimates.

Distinguishing Features The most notable distinguishing feature of Trigonosaurus is the triangular shape of some of its vertebrae when viewed from above. This unique morphology is not observed in other known titanosaurs and serves as a key diagnostic characteristic for the genus.

Paleoenvironment and Diet During the Late Cretaceous, the Serra da Galga Formation, where the fossils of Trigonosaurus were discovered, was characterized by a semi-arid environment. This region likely experienced seasonal rainfall and supported a diverse flora adapted to relatively dry conditions.

As a herbivorous sauropod, Trigonosaurus would have browsed on the available vegetation, which may have included ferns, cycads, and early flowering plants. Its diet was likely composed of a variety of plant material, as sauropods are known to have been generalist herbivores capable of consuming a wide range of vegetation.

Significance and Ongoing Research The discovery of Trigonosaurus contributes to our understanding of the diversity and distribution of titanosaurid dinosaurs in South America during the Late Cretaceous period. Its unique anatomical features, particularly the triangular-shaped vertebrae, highlight the morphological variations within the Titanosauria.

However, the precise phylogenetic relationships of Trigonosaurus within the titanosaur family tree remain a subject of ongoing research and debate. While initially recognized as a distinct titanosaur taxon, some recent analyses have suggested that Trigonosaurus may be more closely related to a subgroup of titanosaurs called Saltasauridae. Further studies and comparisons with other titanosaur specimens are needed to clarify its exact position within the clade.

The incomplete nature of the known fossil material of Trigonosaurus underscores the need for additional discoveries and research in the Serra da Galga Formation and other Late Cretaceous deposits in Brazil. More complete specimens of Trigonosaurus would greatly enhance our understanding of its anatomy, size, and ecological role within the ancient ecosystems of southeastern Brazil.

As paleontologists continue to study Trigonosaurus and its relatives, new insights into the diversity, evolution, and biogeography of titanosaurs in South America during the Late Cretaceous are likely to emerge, contributing to our overall understanding of this fascinating group of dinosaurs.

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