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Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Genus: Asylosaurus
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The Asylosaurus was a species of dinosaur that existed in the late Triassic period in present day England. It is estimated to have existed 235 to 201 million years ago. It was an herbivorous type of dinosaur, a characteristic that was seen amongst most of the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era. Certain paleontologists believe that it may have been omnivorous; but since the other Sauropodomorphs are herbivorous, such claims have few supporters.
The Asylosaurus was terrestrial, had a long neck like other Sauropods, but was bipedal. Most other dinosaurs of the suborder Sauropodomorpha were quadrupeds, which could extend their necks and stand on their hind feet for a little while to increase their reach. Its exact size is unknown, but it is believed to be relatively small in size, growing to an adult weight of about 30 to 60 kilos. Most bipedal Sauropods grew to that size. It is speculated that the Asylosaurus could have been one meter in length.
The habitat of the Asylosaurus was lightly wooded areas. Such areas were abundant in the English plains, which helped the Asylosaurus to flourish. It was the predecessor of the highly evolved Sauropods of the Jurassic periods which dominated the lands and were at top-most tier of the food chain.

The Asylosaurus derives its name from an interesting anecdote. The word ‘Asylo’ is derived from the Latin word ‘as-lum’, which translates to ‘safe haven’ or ‘protected’ or ‘unharmed’.
The remains of the dinosaur were transported to the Yale University in North America during the 1940s. They were stored in a museum which was bombed during the Second World War. The remains now ascribed to the Asylosaurus fortunately survived this attack and therefore were named such.
The suffix ‘-saurus’ means ‘lizard’ in Greek. Therefore, Asylosaurus stands for the ‘Unscathed Lizard.’

Discovery of Fossils
The fossils which are today ascribed to the Asylosaurus were discovered in a cave at Durdham Down, in Clifton, Bristol in 1836. They were uncovered by a group of scientists led by Henry Riley and Samuel Stutchbury. These paleontologists classified and named the remains as Thecodontosaurus. The remains comprised of bones of the thorax including ribs and vertebrae, parts of the shoulder apparatus, a few forearm bones and a few pelvic bones.
The upper arm bones were later classified as the Asylosaurus.

The remains now attributed to the Asylosasurus were initially thought to be those of the Thecodontosaurus. The Thecodontosaurus lived around the same time as the Asylosaurus in the present day Southern English lands. The fossils were being transported to Yale as Yale had housed a few remains belonging to the Thecodontosaurus.
But it was more recently observed by Peter Galton (2007) that the upper arm bone (humerus) of the remains discovered in Clifton, Bristol differed remarkably from the other remains ascribed to the Thecodontosaurus. On the basis of this finding, the humerus was recognized as that belonging to a separate species.
The specific name Asylosaurus yalensis is derived from the Yale University where the fossils are housed.

Contributors to the discovery of the Asylosaurus
The major work in the discovery of the Asylosaurus was performed by Henry Riley, Samuel Stutchbury and Peter Galton.

  • Henry Riley:

Riley was an English naturalist and paleontologist. He was initially shown the remains discovered in the Bristol cave as Samuel Stutchbury was unavailable. He later teamed up Stutchbury to piece together the strange fossils that were referred to them.

  • Samuel Stutchbury:

Stutchbury was born in London in 1798 and was a geologist and a naturalist. He had helped in assembling the remains of the second dinosaur ever to be named, the Iguanodon. It was Stutchbury’s observation that the dental structure of the fossils was similar to those of certain iguana species.
He became the curator the Bristol museum in 1831 and hence fossils of the Asylosaurus and Thecodontosaurus were originally required to be examined by him. But he was away when they were discovered. When he returned back to his station, he became exceedingly interested in the findings. He collaborated with Henry Riley and thus information about the Thecodontosaurus emerged from the remains.
Stutchbury was also a member of the Geological Society of London.
He has also performed extensive geological surveys in Australia.

  • Peter Galton:

Galton is British paleontologist currently residing in the United States. His body of work is wide-ranging, with him having worked on the remains of several dinosaurs such as Lesothosaurus, Camelotia, Callovosaurus, etc.
He has challenged many conventionally accepted hypotheses about dinosaurs and other prehistoric fauna. He has been instrumental in rekindling the interest of other paleontologists in examining dinosaur specimen discovered in the past.

Co-existing dinosaur species
The reign of the dinosaurs began in the Jurassic period: not many dinosaurs have been linked to have existed with the Asylosaurus.
The following is a list of dinosaurs that may have present in the same period as the Asylosaurus:

The Asylosaurus was present during the Rhaetian stage of the Triassic period and it could have co-existed with most of the dinosaurs in that stage.

Role of Othniel Charles Marsh
Othniel Charles Marsh was an American paleontologist. He was involved in the infamous battle with his contemporary and nemesis Edward Drinker Cope to uncover most number of dinosaur fossils. He had studied at the Yale University.
It was Marsh who had brought about the shipping of the Thecodontosaurus remains to Yale. This was done to better examine them in order to try to best Cope at the ‘Bone Wars’. It is quite possible that the remains might have never attracted the attention of modern paleontologists had Marsh not brought them to Yale.

Current location of fossils
The sole arm bones of the Asylosaurus are housed at the Yale University. The Peabody Museum has many exhibits displaying Triassic Sauropods.

The information available about the Asylosaurus is very brief on account of the lack of fossils discovered. The only evidence available is the humerus, which actually creates more questions than it answers. The size, weight, food habits, predators, etc. of the Asylosaurus are unknown, with only conjectures presented about them.
The Asylosaurus nonetheless was an important ancestor of the Jurassic Sauropods.