Bienosaurus in Yunnan

Bienosaurus (meaning “Bien’s lizard”) is a genus of thyreophoran dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic (probably Sinemurian) Lower Lufeng Formation in Yunnan Province in China. Bienosaurus is a genus of thyreophoran dinosaur that may have lived in the Lower Jurassic Lufeng Formation of Yunnan Province, China. The name means “Bien’s lizard”. In 1938, Bian Meinian discovered a partial dinosaur skull in the area, and in 2001, Dong Zhiming named and described it as Bienosaurus lufengensis, honoring Bian with the generic name and the Lufeng Formation with the specific name. However, some authors have reassessed the dinosaur’s classification due to the fragmentary nature of the remains and the lack of autapomorphies. For example, one article notes that the wide distribution of cortical remodeling of the skull roof, a synapomorphy of thyreophorans, makes it difficult to identify as an autapomorphy for Bienosaurus.

Discovery and species

In 1938, Bian Meinian, known in the West as Mei Nien Bien, discovered a fragmentary dinosaur skull. In 2001, Dong Zhiming named and described the specimen as the type species Bienosaurus lufengensis. The generic name honours Bian. The specific name refers to the Lufeng formation.

Bienosaurus is based on holotype IVPP V15311 (in 2001 incorrectly given the inventory number IVPP V 9612). It consists of a partial right lower jaw with teeth and several cranial fragments.


Dong in 2001 placed Bienosaurus in the Scelidosauridae, considering these to be part of the Ankylosauria. Later publications suggested a general position basal in the Thyreophora. In 2019 a study confirmed this, concluding Bienosaurus was a nomen dubium, possibly identical to Tatisaurusfrom the same formation.

Discovery and Naming

  • Discovery: Bienosaurus fossils were first discovered in Yunnan Province, China, specifically in the Lower Jurassic rock formations.
  • Naming: The genus name “Bienosaurus” means “Bie’s lizard,” named after Bie Zuyao, a renowned Chinese paleontologist who made significant contributions to the study of Chinese dinosaurs.

Physical Characteristics

  • Classification: Bienosaurus is classified as a prosauropod dinosaur, a group of herbivorous dinosaurs that were early relatives of the giant sauropods.
  • Size: It was a medium-sized dinosaur, with an estimated length of around 5-6 meters (16-20 feet).

Habitat and Paleoenvironment

  • Habitat: During the Early Jurassic period, Yunnan Province had a warm and humid climate, characterized by lush vegetation. This provided a suitable habitat for herbivorous dinosaurs like Bienosaurus.
  • Fossil Sites: Fossils of Bienosaurus have been found in various locations within Yunnan, contributing to our understanding of the dinosaur fauna in this region during that time.


  • Contribution to Paleontology: Bienosaurus fossils have provided important insights into the diversity and evolutionary relationships of early sauropodomorph dinosaurs in Asia during the Early Jurassic.
  • Research and Study: Study of Bienosaurus helps paleontologists understand the anatomical features, locomotion, and feeding habits of early herbivorous dinosaurs.

Fossil Sites in Yunnan

  • Yunnan Province is known for its rich fossil sites, including those where Bienosaurus fossils have been discovered. These sites are critical for studying the paleobiology and evolutionary history of dinosaurs in Asia.

Bienosaurus represents an integral part of Yunnan’s paleontological heritage, offering valuable clues about ancient ecosystems and the early evolution of dinosaurs in this region.