The Chinese pareiasaurs
Pareiasaurs were important medium- to large-sized herbivores in the Middle and Late Permian, some 268–252 Ma. They are best known from abundant remains of several taxa found in South Africa and Russia, with isolated finds from other parts of the world. Six genera and species of pareiasaurs have been described from China, and yet they have not been reviewed. Of these six, Tsiyuania may be a synonym of Honania, but this taxon is not further considered here. The other four, which were named for separate finds from the Sunjiagou Formation (Changhsingian, 254–252 Ma), show considerable similarities. Despite earlier suggestions, there are no convincing anatomical characters to distinguish Shihtienfenia, Shansisaurus, and Huanghesaurus, and these three genera are synonymized as Shihtienfenia permica Young & Yeh, 1963. The fourth taxon, Sanchuansaurus pygmaeus Gao, 1989, shows distinctly different teeth from those of Huanghesaurus (= Shihtienfenia), and was about one-third of the size, so it is retained as a second valid pareiasaur from the Chinese latest Permian. Phylogenetic analysis confirms the validity of these two taxa, with Sanchuansaurus belonging among the derived forms, close to Elginiidae, and with Shihtienfenia associated with Pumiliopareiasauria and Pareiasuchus.
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