The Aardonyx FAQ

Aardonyx Skeleton by Adam Yates

Skeletal reconstruction of Aardonyx celestae by Adam Yates (c) 2009.

Frequently Asked Questions About Aardonyx

What Does The Name Mean?

Aardonyx celestae – translation: The genus name (Aardonyx) means “Earth Claw,” given for the fact that the large, earth-encrusted foot claws were some of the first bones to be discovered. The species name (celestae) is given to acknowledge the work of Celeste Yates, who prepared much of this fossil.

Why is the Discovery of Aardonyx Important?

Aardonyx was an animal close to the common ancestor of the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs. Sauropods (known popularly as “the long-necked dinosaurs”) were the largest backboned animals to walk on land – with their long necks, tree-trunk legs, and whip-like tails some exceeded 100 feet in length! Aardonyx gives us a glimpse into what the first steps towards becoming a sauropod involved.

Computer-aided shape analysis of the thigh bone (femur) shows that the attachment site for a major muscle which pulls the hind limb backwards is located nearly half-way down the shaft.  This is significant because we see a similar trend in sauropods – placing the muscle insertion further down the shaft improves the muscle’s power.”

During What Time Period Did Aardonyx Exist?

Early Jurassic (approximately 195 Million Years Ago)

Where Was Aardonyx Discovered?

Free State, South Africa

What Type of Climate Did Aardonyx Live In? (Paleoclimate)

Arid desert with streams and oases

What Was the Diet of Aardonyx?

This dinosaur was a vegetarian

How Big was Aardonyx?

Approximately 7 meters (~20 feet) long

What are Special Skeletal Features of Aardonyx?

The skeletal anatomy of Aardonyx shares a number of key features with sauropods.  The skull and jaws show signs that this dinosaur had a wide gape and could bulk-browse, just as sauropods would enhance later.  Limb proportions show that Aardonyx was a biped – the forelimbs are shorter than the hindlimbs.

However:

  • its forearm bones interlock (like those of quadrupedal sauropods), suggesting that it could occasionally walk on all-fours without twisting its hand
  • despite its “small” size, the specialized bracing joints had developed to solidify its back bone
  • the thigh bone (femur) was straightened for weight-support
  • the feet were flattened, bore large claws, and were more robust internally, features of a weight-bearing axis shifted towards the midline as in the giant near-descendants of Aardonyx

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