Shunosaurus, meaning "shu lizard", is a genus of sauropod dinosaur from Late Jurassic (Oxfordian) beds in Sichuan Province in China, approximately 159±2 million years ago.[1] The name derives from "Shu", an ancient name for the Sichuan province.

Temporal range: Late Jurassic,
159 Ma
Shunosaurus - Finnish Museum of Natural History.jpg
Mount in the Finnish Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Saurischia
Clade: Sauropodomorpha
Clade: Sauropoda
Clade: Eusauropoda
Genus: Shunosaurus
Dong et al., 1983
Type species
Shunosaurus lii
Dong et al., 1983
Other species
  • Shunosaurus jiangyiensis
    Fu & Zhang, 2004

Discovery and speciesEdit

Skeletal cast mount, Tianjin Natural History Museum
Skeletons of Shunosaurus (left) and Giganotosaurus (right) in the Natural History Museum of Helsinki, Finland

The first fossil of Shunosaurus was discovered in 1977 by a group of students, practising paleontological excavation at a road bank. The type species, Shunosaurus lii, was described and named by Dong Zhiming, Zhou Shiwu and Zhang Yihong in 1983. The generic name derives from "Shu", an ancient name for Sichuan. The specific name honours hydrologist Li Bing, the governor of Sichuan in the third century BC.[2]

The holotype, IVPP V.9065, was collected from the Lower Xiashaximiao Formation near Dashanpu, Zigong. It consists of a partial skeleton. Later about twenty more major specimens were discovered, including several complete or near-complete skeletons, skulls and juveniles,[3] making Shunosaurus one of the best anatomically known sauropods, with 94% of all skeletal elements identified. Shunosaurus skeletons are on display at the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in Zigong, Sichuan Province, and the Tianjin Natural History Museum.

A proposed second species, S. ziliujingensis, a name mentioned in the Zigong museum guide to indicate a smaller and older form, has never been formally described, and thus remains a nomen nudum.

In 2004 a partial semi-articulated specimen from Jiangyi Township in Yuanmou County was described as the new species Shunosaurus jiangyiensis. It is known from nine cervicals, 15 dorsals, three sacrals, four caudals, both scapulae, the right coracoid and clavicle, the right forelimb lacking the hand, a pubis and ischium and the right hindlimb, found in the upper section of the Middle Jurassic Xiashaximiao Formation. The species was separated from Shunosaurus lii based on its unique pectoral girdle, but was described as otherwise very similar to both Shunosaurus lii and Kunmingosaurus.[4]


Shunosaurus was first estimated to be 11 metres (36 ft) long; later and more complete finds indicated a somewhat smaller size. In 2010 Gregory S. Paul estimated the length at 9.5 metres (31 ft), the weight at 3 metric tons (3.3 short tons).[5] Shunosaurus was very short-necked for a sauropod, being only "surpassed" in this respect by Brachytrachelopan.[6] The skulls found are mostly compressed or disarticulated and the interpretation of the head form has varied from broad, short and deep[7] to extremely narrow and pointed.[8] The upper and lower jaws were strongly curved upwards, allowing them to function as a pair of garden shears. The teeth were fairly robust but elongated with a crown length of up to 8 centimetres (3.1 in). They show a unique combination of a cylindrical body ending in a spatulate tip. In 1989 it was disclosed that the tail ended in a club,[9] equipped on its top with two successive spikes formed by 5 centimetres (2.0 in)-long cone-shaped osteoderms probably used to fend off predators.


Size comparison

Shunosaurus was originally classified as a member of the Cetiosaurinae; in 1992 Dong assigned it to Shunosaurinae within the Cetiosauridae.[10]

Cladistic analyses have rendered conflicting results. In 1995 Paul Upchurch published a study in which Shunosaurus belonged to the Euhelopodidae together with other Jurassic Chinese sauropods.[11] However, an analysis by Jeffrey Wilson in 2002 indicated it had a very basal position within the Eusauropoda.[12] Shunosaurus is perhaps related to Rhoetosaurus from Queensland in Australia.



Its neck length indicates that Shunosaurus was a low browser. The form of its jaws is well-adapted to processing large amounts of coarse plant material.[13]

Shunosaurus accounts for 90% of the fossils found in the Dashanpu fauna, showing it was a dominant and/ or common member of its habitat and environment. It shared the local Middle Jurassic landscape with other sauropods, Datousaurus, Omeisaurus and Protognathosaurus, the possible ornithopod Xiaosaurus, and the early stegosaur Huayangosaurus, as well as the carnivorous theropod Gasosaurus.


  1. ^ Wang, Jun; Ye, Yong; Pei, Rui; Tian, Yamin; Feng, Chongqin; Zheng, Daran; Chang, Su-Chin (2018-09-01). "Age of Jurassic basal sauropods in Sichuan, China: A reappraisal of basal sauropod evolution". GSA Bulletin. 130 (9–10): 1493–1500. doi:10.1130/B31910.1. ISSN 0016-7606.
  2. ^ Dong, Z., Zhou, S. & Zhang, Y. 1983. [Dinosaurs from the Jurassic of Sichuan]. Palaeontologica Sinica, New Series C 162(23): 1-136
  3. ^ Zhang Y., Yang D. & Peng G., 1984, "[New materials of Shunosaurus from the Middle Jurassic of Dashanpu, Zigong, Sichuan]", Journal of Chengdu College of Geology 2: 1–12
  4. ^ Fu, L.; Zhang, J. (2004). "A new species of sauropod from the Middle Jurassic of Jiangyi, Yuanmou". Yunnan Geology (in Chinese). 23 (1): 73–76.
  5. ^ Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 173
  6. ^ Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 175
  7. ^ Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 174
  8. ^ Zheng , Zhong (1996). Cranial Anatomy of Shunosaurus and Camarasaurus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) and the phylogeny of the Sauropoda. Dissertation Texas Tech University. pp. 208
  9. ^ Dong Z., Peng G., Huang D. 1989. [The discovery of the bony tail club of sauropods]. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 27: 219–224
  10. ^ Dong Zhiming (1992). Dinosaurian Faunas of China. China Ocean Press, Beijing. ISBN 3-540-52084-8.
  11. ^ P. Upchurch. 1995. "The evolutionary history of sauropod dinosaurs". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 349: 365-390
  12. ^ J. A. Wilson. 2002. "Sauropod dinosaur phylogeny: critique and cladistic analysis". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 136: 217-276
  13. ^ Chatterjee, S. & Zheng, Z. 2002. "Cranial anatomy of Shunosaurus, a basal sauropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of China". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 136(1): 145–169