Gyposaurus in Yunnan

Gyposaurus (meaning “vulture lizard”, referring to the outdated hypothesis that prosauropods were carnivores) is a genus of basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the early Jurassic of South Africa. It is usually considered to represent juveniles of other prosauropods, but “G.” sinensis is regarded as a possibly valid species in recent reviews of the prosauropods (Galton and Upchurch, 2004).


G. capensis was named in 1911 by Scottish physician and paleontologist Robert Broom from a partial skeleton consisting of eleven dorsal and six caudal vertebrae, ribs, gastralia, partial right scapula, right pelvic girdle, left ilium, and most of the right leg, discovered in the Upper Elliot Formation of Orange Free State, South Africa. Originally, he thought it pertained to the dubious genus Hortalotarsus. Galton and Cluver synonymized it with Anchisaurus in 1976, but Michael Cooper synonymized it with Massospondylus in 1981, which has been generally accepted.

G. sinensis was named by Yang Zhongjian (C.C. Young) in 1940 from most of a skeleton with a partial skull found in the Lower Jurassic Lufeng Formation, Yunnan Province, China, and referred over a dozen other specimens to it.Galton in 1976 referred it to Lufengosaurus as a juvenile version, but Dong Zhiming referred it to Anchisaurus in 1992. As mentioned, in the most recent review, Galton and Upchurch (2004) consider it as probably a valid, distinct taxon, in need of a new generic name. Unpublished results of a presentation by Wang and colleagues at the SVP 2017 conference indicate that G. sinensis is a junior synonym of Lufengosaurus huenei, however, while the referred specimens IVPP V43, V45, and V95 need further investigation.

Discovery and Naming

  • Discovery: Fossils of Gyposaurus have been discovered in Yunnan Province, China.
  • Name Origin: The genus name “Gyposaurus” means “vulture lizard,” derived from Greek (“gyps” for vulture) and Latin (“saurus” for lizard).

Physical Characteristics

  • Anatomy: Gyposaurus is known from partial skeletal remains, including vertebrae, limb bones, and other skeletal elements.
  • Size: It was a medium-sized herbivorous dinosaur, estimated to have been around 4-5 meters in length.


  • Theropod Dinosaur: Gyposaurus belongs to the group of theropod dinosaurs, which are characterized by their bipedal stance and carnivorous diet.
  • Early Jurassic: It lived during the Early Jurassic period, approximately 200-190 million years ago.


  • Habitat: Gyposaurus inhabited terrestrial environments in Yunnan during the Early Jurassic, which were likely warm and humid with diverse vegetation.
  • Coexistence: It coexisted with other dinosaurs and early vertebrates of the time, contributing to the ecosystem’s biodiversity.


  • Paleontological Importance: Fossils of Gyposaurus provide valuable insights into the diversity and evolution of early theropod dinosaurs in Yunnan and broader Early Jurassic ecosystems.
  • Research: Study of Gyposaurus fossils helps paleontologists understand aspects of dinosaur anatomy, behavior, and paleobiology during the Early Jurassic.

Gyposaurus is an important genus for understanding the early evolution of theropod dinosaurs and the paleoecology of Early Jurassic Yunnan.