Vulcanodon ‭(‬Volcano tooth)‬

Short Info

Vulcanodon ‭(‬Volcano tooth)‬

Phonetic : Vul-can-o-don.

Named By : Michael Raath‭ ‬-‭ ‬1972

Diet : Herbivore

Size : Estimated 6.5 meters long

Type of Dinosaur : Sauropod

Type Species : V.‭ ‬karibaensis‭ (‬type‭)

Found in : Zimbabwe,‭ ‬Lake Kariba,‭ ‬Island‭ ‬126/127‭ ‬-‭ ‬Vulcanodon Beds Formation

When it Lived : Early Jurassic, 205-202 million years ago

Vulcanodon (meaning “volcano tooth”) is an extinct genus belonging to sauropod dinosaurs that lived in The Early Jurassic of southern Africa. The only species known that is known is V. karibaensis. The species was first discovered by scientists in the year 1969, in Zimbabwe It was considered as the oldest-known sauropod for several decades and is one of the oldest sauropods to be discovered. As a quadrupedal herbivore living in the earth, Vulcanodon already showed the typical sauropod body structure, which included columns-like legs, as well as a lengthy body and neck. It was smaller than sauropods and measured around 11 meters (36 feet) by length. Vulcanodon is identified by a fragmentary skeleton, which includes a large portion of the pelvic girdle hindlimbsand forearms as well as the tail, however, it is missing the neck vertebrae and the trunk and the skull.


Vulcanodon skeletonIJReid, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The genus was originally thought to have been a prosauropod based on the appearance of the teeth that resembled knives close to fossils of the genus, which corresponds to the notion that prosauropods were all-consuming. Scientists have discovered that the teeth belong to an unidentified theropod , which could have taken a pawn from some of the Vulcanodon carcass. Vulcanodon is now believed to be a real sauropod. After the discovery of the closely related Tazoudasaurus both animals were joined within the family of Vulcanodontidae although this isn’t widely accepted.

Vulcanodon is only known from a single location located on an island in Lake Kariba, the largest artificial lake in the world located in the northern part of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). The island, situated just west from Bumi Hills known as “Island 126/127”, after the early lake charts that were not published however, it does not have a formal name. It was first discovered by B. A. Gibson of the town of Kariba in July 1969 as well as an excavating team took the bone in the months of October 1969 and March, and May 1970. In the latter part of 1970 the discovery was announced at a symposium on science at Cape Town and a brief note was published. The new find was officially identified and detailed in July of 1972 by Palaeontologist Michael Raath. Name Vulcanodon (lat. Vulcanus (literally, Roman god of the fire as well as gr. Odon (meaning “tooth”) points to the discovery of the skeleton located in sandstone. This was initially believed as belonging to the Batoka Formation but is actually part of the Forest Sandstone lays a few meters below the lava flows of Batoka Formation, and emphasizes the unique knife-shaped teeth which have now been proven to be belonging to theropod. The name, karibaensis is the name given to the area that was discovered on a small island located in Lake Kariba. It was among the first dinosaurs discovered in Zimbabwe.

The bone skeleton (catalogue numbers QG24) was found to be being eroded from the slope of a hill and was partially destroyed by the surface exonation process and the roots of plants. It includes the pelvis as well as the sacrum, the bulk part of left hind limb , the foot, as well as the right thigh bone and 12 anterior vertebrae in the tail. The remains belong to one person since they were all articulated (still connected). Also, several disarticulated bones were discovered which included the right forearm as well as metacarpalia and phalanges of both left and right forefeets. They could also be related to the same person. The site was later revisited by researchers Geoffrey Bond and Michael Cooper who were able find additional remains, including the skull scapula (specimen QG152 ), the shoulder blade) and a piece of cervical vertebra. The remains indicate the presence of more than one person was present and it’s possible that they don’t belong to Vulcanodon in any way. The Vulcanodon remains are kept within Bulawayo, which is the home of Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

Raath (1972) observed that he had discovered nine carnivore fragments teeth in the pelvic area within the skeleton. He suggested that Vulcanodon carcass may have been buried with the neck and head bent forwards over the pelvis, the death pose is a position which is often observed in dinosaur skulls. The teeth could have been the only preserved part from the skull. As observed in Cooper (1984) the teeth do not belong to Vulcanodon but rather to some other dinosaur known as a theropod that could have been scavenging on carcasses of Vulcanodon carcass.

Source: Wikipedia