Herrerasauridae - Classification


Where herrerasaurids lie on the early dinosaur evolutionary tree is unclear. They are possibly basal theropods or basal saurischians but may in fact predate the saurischian-ornithischian split. Early researchers even proposed that they represented an early lineage of sauropodomorphs. Some analyses, such as Nesbitt et al. 2009, have found Herrerasaurus and its relatives in Herrerasauridae to be very basal theropods, while others (such as Ezcurra 2010) have found them to be basal to the clade Eusaurischia, that is, closer to the base of the saurischian tree than either theropods or sauropodomorphs, but not true members of either. The situation is further complicated by uncertainties in correlating the ages of late Triassic beds bearing land animals.

Other proposed members of the clade have included Sanjuansaurus from the same Ischigualasto Formation of Argentina as Herrerasaurus, Staurikosaurus from the Santa Maria Formation of southern Brazil, Chindesaurus from the Upper Petrified Forest (Chinle Formation) of Arizona, and possibly Caseosaurus from the Dockum Formation of Texas, although the relationships of these animals are not fully understood, and not all paleontologists agree. Other possible basal theropods, Alwalkeria from the Late Triassic Maleri Formation of India, and Teyuwasu, known from very fragmentary remains from the Late Triassic of Brazil, might be related. Novas (1992) defined Herrerasauridae as Herrerasaurus, Staurikosaurus, and their most recent common ancestor. Sereno (1998) defined the group as the most inclusive clade including H. ischigualastensis but not Passer domesticus. Langer (2004) provided first phylogenetic definition of a higher level taxon, infraorder Herrerasauria.

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