The known material includes two cervical vertebrae, nine dorsal vertebrae, a few ribs, a fragment of a pubis, and many gastroliths. Of the material, only the vertebrae are diagnostic, with the ribs and pubis being two fragmentary or general to distinguish Dinheirosaurus. This material was first described as in the genus Lourinhasaurus, but differences were noticed and in 1999 Bonaparte and Mateus redescribed the material under the new binomial Dinheirosaurus lourinhanensis. Another specimen, ML 418, thought to be Dinheirosaurus, is now known to be from another portugese diplodocid. This means that Dinheirosaurus lived alongside many theropods, sauropods, thyreophorans and ornithopods, as well as at least one other diplodocid.
Dinheirosaurus is a diplodocid, a relative of Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, Supersaurus, and Tornieria. Among those, the closest relative to Dinheirosaurus is Supersaurus, and together they form a clade of primitive diplodocines more basal than Torneria and a Barosaurus + Diplodocus clade.
Discovery and namingEdit
Jose Bonaparte and Octavio Mateus studied the material of Lourinhasaurus, concluding one specimen, under the name ML 414, to be more closely related to diplodocids of the Morrison Formation, and thus warranting a new binomial name. This new species was described as Dinheirosaurus lourinhanensis, with a full meaning of "Porto Dinheiro lizard from Lourinha".
ML 414 was first uncovered in 1987 by Mr. Carlos Anunciação. He was associated with the Museu da Lourinha, and after the excavations which lasted from the time of discovery until 1992, the specimen was then moved in to the museum, and catalogued under the number 414. Dantas et al. preliminarily announced ML 414 as soon as the excavations were complete. To remove the fossils from the surrounding rock, a bulldozer and tilt hammer were needed. The fossils were situated at the top of a costal cliff, and once removed, were shipped to Lourinha in two blocks with the help of a crane. A year before being described as a new taxon, Dantas et al. assigned ML 414 to Lourinhasaurus alenquerensis, previously grouped under Apatosaurus. Bonaparte and Mateus found that the although Lourinhasaurus was valid, the assignment of ML 414 was incorrect.
Dinheirosaurus material included vertebrae, ribs, partial pelvis, and gastroliths. The vertebrae were certainly from the cervical and dorsal regions, and are articulated. The two cervicals are not greatly preserved, although the twelve dorsals are articulated and in good condition. Other vertebral material includes seven centra that are fragmentary and a few neural arches, which are unattached. 12 dorsal ribs are preserved, as well as some appendicular elements. David Weishampel et al. did not recognize all the material as belonging to Dinheirosaurus, and only found 9 dorsals in the holotype, while also misinterpreting the pubis as a limb fragment. They also incorrectly stated that it was found in the Camadas de Alcobaça Formation. Another pair of vertebrae, under collection number ML 418, was originally assigned to Dinheirosaurus by Bonaparte and Mateus, but is now considered to be a distinct new unnamed genus of diplodocoid.
Dinheirosaurus is an average sized diplodocid, and had an elongated neck and tail. The main features of the genus are based on its vertebral anatomy, and multiple vertebrae from across the spine have been found. In total, Dinheirosaurus would have had an approximate length of 25 m (82 ft).
Dinheirosaurus is not known well from non-vertebral material, currently only consisting of partial ribs and a fragment of a pelvis. One of the ribs attached to the cervicals, and is quite fragmentary. It is elongated, although that might be a feature of distortion. Also undescribed by Bonaparte & Mateus are a set of thoratic ribs. Two ribs are from the left side of the animal. They are T-shaped in cross section, and display plesiomorphic features, although their incomplete state makes their identification uncertain. Multiple right ribs are preserved, including both the shafts and heads. They are similar to the left ribs, which also show that they lack pneumtization. Other appendicular (non-vertebral) material includes a very incomplete and fragmentary shaft of the pubis, and over one hundred gastroliths. The pubis displays practially no anatomical features, and the gastroliths were not described in detail by Mannion et al. in 2012.
The most distinguishing material of Dinheirosaurus comes from the vertebrae, which are well represented and described. Of the cervicals, only two of the assumed fifteen are preserved. According to Bonaparte & Mateus (1999), the cervicals would number 13 and 14. Apparently cervical 15 was lost during the excavation and removal of the holotype and only specimen of Dinheirosaurus. As of the original description, the thirteenth cervical was only prepared on the lateroventral portion. The length of the centrum is 71 cm (28 in), and the fourteenth cervical is quite similar overall. 63 cm (25 in) is the total measurement of the 14th cervicals centrum, which is well preserved, complete, and concave along the bottom edge. The neural of the spine, while compressed from above compared to the cervicals of Diplodocus, is massive, and projects upwards towards its posterior end.
A relatively complete series of dorsal vertebrae are known, which number one to seven. All of the dorsals, however, are distorted upwards due to their state of preservation. Bonaparte & Mateus (1999) noted that the position of the dorsals was not certain, and that in fact the first dorsal could have been the last cervical or even the second dorsal. A similar numbering was found in Diplodocus, with the first and second dorsals similar in anatomy to the last and second-last cervical. The dorsal vary in length from the 58 cm (23 in) of the first dorsal to the 25 cm (9.8 in) of the seventh, eight and ninth dorsals. Height in the vertebrae is also quite variable, with the shortest height being 51 cm (20 in) tall to 76 cm (30 in) tall, increasing from the first dorsal