Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh


Redescription and taxonomic status of specimens of Episcoposaurus and Typothorax, the earliest known aetosaurs (Archosauria: Suchia) from the Upper Triassic of western North America, and the problem of proxy “holotypes”

William G. Parker

Division of Resource Management, Petrified Forest National Park, P.O. Box 2217, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028, USA. Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA. Email:


Historic type and referred material of the aetosaurian taxa Typothorax coccinarum, Episcoposaurus horridus and Episcoposaurus haplocerus are redescribed and the non-aetosaurian material identified and removed, a task previously considered “hopeless”. Reexamination of the original material reveals that the holotypes of E. haplocerus and probably T. coccinarum are not diagnosable at the species level and therefore are nomena dubia. The next available names for material referred to these taxa are Desmatosuchus spurensis and E. horridus respectively, although it may be more desirable for reasons of taxonomic stability to attempt to petition for a neotype in the latter case. The redescription of historical specimens is necessary to determine their nomenclatural validity. The use of referred specimens as proxy “type” specimens is problematic, as these referrals were originally made not on the basis of apomorphies, but rather on biostratigraphic and/or geographical assumptions which are inherently circular and cannot be unambiguously supported.

(Received January 06 2012)

(Accepted October 28 2012)


  • Aetosauria;
  • Chinle Formation;
  • Desmatosuchus ;
  • Edward D. Cope;
  • Late Triassic;
  • taxonomy