Vault tales 178 – Clades – “Sauropoda”

Today we have another ‘Clades’ and this time…it will take more explanation? When I revamped my database taxonomic details, I realized that some groups were very heavily lumped into one category–even though many groups fit in as ancestors to others, etc. Some groups were also more tightly defined than others, often based on how I focus in my collecting (so, lots of fish ones, very few arthropods…still true). I also realized that it could make a clades post really, really unwieldy–as an example, the term ‘sauropod’ would have included a whole lot of figures and this post would be dozens of photos… So I started doing some research on dinosaur phylogeny, and how everything relates to everything else. And so I broke down the taxonomy–and the figures therein–based on what I could find. But still had to make it fit with how the collection work (otherwise every species would just be a clade, not especially useful…)

What this meant was a lot of paraphyletic groupings…mostly identifying the basal stems, and working up, with some left out of that. Which is how I labelled the ‘Sauropoda’. Normally this term evokes all of the heavy bodied, long-necked dinosaurs, which in a way it does; but I’m also being more specific. In my system, ‘Sauropoda’ includes all of the basal Sauropoda that are not within the ‘Eusauropoda’. Honest, it makes sense to me…and I had to make cutoffs somewhere (there are a lot of clades…and not a lot of representative figures anyway!) So for my purposes this group contains the Lessemsauridae, Vulcanodontidae, and a few other taxa like Spinophorosaurus. As I understand it, ‘Sauropoda’ are united past the more basal ‘sauropodomorphs’ by more rounded skulls, increasing size (though not to the level of eusauropods), and weight-bearing Metatarsal V, but still had apparently some flexibility in their hands (and didn’t have the ‘horseshoe’ toe arrangement. The earliest species are from the late Triassic of Gondwana (depending on whether lessemsaurids are considered Sauropoda or not, there is of course differing opinions), reaching northern continents in the early Jurassic and not existing much past the middle Jurassic.

In terms of figures for a group like this, there isn’t going to be much. Most are kind of obscure, and being primarily southern hemisphere, as a group those figures just don’t get made like northern hemisphere dinosaurs (unless they have extreme superlatives or are especially weird or notable). As it is, I have two–and both are special release figures of one type or another. My Lessemsaurus is represented by a skeletal reconstruction. It was released for a Dawn of the Dinosaurs series in around 2010 or so, as a gashapon (capsule figure) for a Japanese exhibition of the same name. The whole exhibit featured fauna from a late Triassic formation in Argentina, and is overall a great one to try and find (good luck). The Lessemsaurus appeared to be a late release, as the earliest set materials didn’t include it. The other Sauropoda figure I have is a Bullyland Spinophorosaurus released for the Braunschweig Staatliche Naturhistorisches Museum. The sculpt is…rough (the weird texturing is off-putting) but given the rare nature of the figure, I’m happy to have it. And it’s of course not around anymore. I have heard of vulcanodontid toys, but I don’t have any, and I believe that if they exist they are…less than stellar.

Unfortunately, that’s about it for this (fine, paraphyletic) clade of generally more popular dinosaurs. In a way it’s too bad, since it seems like a nice array of late Triassic or early Jurassic figures should include some of these precursors to their more massive (and more famous) gigantic descendants. Of course, that would assume that we see enough models from those ages overall, which we don’t (barring a unique Japanese exhibition here and there) but it would be nice to see something different. I will also say, I do enjoy these clade ones even though I am seriously not that well-versed in most groups (like, say, sauropods in general….) but I makes me think more about them, and how everything fits together. Which in turn feels like it gives a connectedness to my entire collection!

I also want to point out that most of ‘research’ on these clades is quite scattershot, since it’s usually hard to put everything together in one place. For dinosaurs at least, I found a great source that at least worked as a great starting point for me! I recommend giving it all a look!

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