Sauropoda are the largest terrestrial animals to have ever lived and represent the dominant herbivorous dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era. The Lower Shaximiao Formation of the Sichuan Basin, Southwest China, hosts abundant Jurassic basal sauropods including the Shunosaurus-Omeisaurus Fauna. This formation was previously hypothesized to be Middle Jurassic based on biostratigraphic interpretations, but the exact depositional age is uncertain. Here we report the youngest inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) detrital zircon U-Pb age of 159 ± 2 Ma for fossil-bearing strata from this formation as the maximum depositional age. This age falls very close to the Oxfordian age interpreted for the Shunosaurus-Omeisaurus Fauna and is younger than previously proposed. We suggest that when the widely distributed basal sauropods of the Early-Middle Jurassic were mostly replaced by the phylogenetically more-derived neosauropods in the Late Jurassic in other regions of Laurasia and Gondwana, some more basal members survived and diversified in the Sichuan Basin of southwestern China.

You do not currently have access to this article.