ResearchPad - saurischia Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[The fast and the frugal: Divergent locomotory strategies drive limb lengthening in theropod dinosaurs]]> Limb length, cursoriality and speed have long been areas of significant interest in theropod paleobiology, since locomotory capacity, especially running ability, is critical in the pursuit of prey and to avoid becoming prey. The impact of allometry on running ability, and the limiting effect of large body size, are aspects that are traditionally overlooked. Since several different non-avian theropod lineages have each independently evolved body sizes greater than any known terrestrial carnivorous mammal, ~1000kg or more, the effect that such large mass has on movement ability and energetics is an area with significant implications for Mesozoic paleoecology. Here, using expansive datasets that incorporate several different metrics to estimate body size, limb length and running speed, we calculate the effects of allometry on running ability. We test traditional metrics used to evaluate cursoriality in non-avian theropods such as distal limb length, relative hindlimb length, and compare the energetic cost savings of relative hindlimb elongation between members of the Tyrannosauridae and more basal megacarnivores such as Allosauroidea or Ceratosauridae. We find that once the limiting effects of body size increase is incorporated there is no significant correlation to top speed between any of the commonly used metrics, including the newly suggested distal limb index (Tibia + Metatarsus/ Femur length). The data also shows a significant split between large and small bodied theropods in terms of maximizing running potential suggesting two distinct strategies for promoting limb elongation based on the organisms’ size. For small and medium sized theropods increased leg length seems to correlate with a desire to increase top speed while amongst larger taxa it corresponds more closely to energetic efficiency and reducing foraging costs. We also find, using 3D volumetric mass estimates, that the Tyrannosauridae show significant cost of transport savings compared to more basal clades, indicating reduced energy expenditures during foraging and likely reduced need for hunting forays. This suggests that amongst theropods, hindlimb evolution was not dictated by one particular strategy. Amongst smaller bodied taxa the competing pressures of being both a predator and a prey item dominant while larger ones, freed from predation pressure, seek to maximize foraging ability. We also discuss the implications both for interactions amongst specific clades and Mesozoic paleobiology and paleoecological reconstructions as a whole.

<![CDATA[Anatomy of the dinosaur Pampadromaeus barberenai (Saurischia—Sauropodomorpha) from the Late Triassic Santa Maria Formation of southern Brazil]]>

Sauropodomorphs are the most abundant and diverse clade of Triassic dinosaurs, but the taxonomy of their earliest (Carnian) representatives is still poorly understood. One such taxon is Pampadromaeus barberenai, represented by a nearly complete disarticulated skeleton recovered from the upper part of the Santa Maria Formation of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Here, the osteology of Pam. barberenai is fully described for the first time. Detailed comparisons with other Carnian sauropodomorphs reveal a unique anatomy, corroborating its status as a valid species. Potential autapomorphies of Pam. barberenai can be seen in the articulation of the sacral zygapophyses, the length of the pectoral epipodium, the shape of the distal articulation of the femur and the proximal articulation of metatarsal 1. A novel phylogenetic study shows that relationships among the Carnian sauropodomorphs are poorly constrained, possibly because they belong to a “zone of variability”, where homoplasy abounds. Yet, there is some evidence that Pam. barberenai may nest within Saturnaliidae, along with Saturnalia tupiniquim and Chromogisaurus novasi, which represents the sister group to the larger sauropodomorphs, i.e. Bagualosauria.

<![CDATA[The braincase of Malawisaurus dixeyi (Sauropoda: Titanosauria): A 3D reconstruction of the brain endocast and inner ear]]>

A braincase of the Cretaceous titanosaurian sauropod Malawisaurus dixeyi, complete except for the olfactory region, was CT scanned and a 3D rendering of the endocast and inner ear was generated. Cranial nerves appear in the same configuration as in other sauropods, including derived features that appear to characterize titanosaurians, specifically, an abducens nerve canal that passes lateral to the pituitary fossa rather than entering it. Furthermore, the hypoglossal nerve exits the skull via a single foramen, consistent with most titanosaurians, while other saurischians, including the basal titanosauriform, Giraffatitan, contain multiple rootlets. The size of the vestibular labyrinth is smaller than in Giraffatitan, but larger than in most derived titanosaurians. Similar to the condition found in Giraffatitan, the anterior semicircular canal is larger than the posterior semicircular canal. This contrasts with more derived titanosaurians that contain similarly sized anterior and posterior semicircular canals, congruent with the interpretation of Malawisaurus as a basal titanosaurian. Measurements of the humerus of Malawisaurus provide a body mass estimate of 4.7 metric tons. Comparison of body mass to radius of the semicircular canals of the vestibular labyrinth reveals that Malawisaurus fits the allometric relationship found in previous studies of extant mammals and Giraffatitan brancai. As in Giraffatitan, the anterior semicircular canal is significantly larger than is predicted by the allometric relationship suggesting greater sensitivity and slower movement of the head in the sagittal plane.

<![CDATA[Novel insight into the origin of the growth dynamics of sauropod dinosaurs]]>

Sauropod dinosaurs include the largest terrestrial animals and are considered to have uninterrupted rapid rates of growth, which differs from their more basal relatives, which have a slower cyclical growth. Here we examine the bone microstructure of several sauropodomorph dinosaurs, including basal taxa, as well as the more derived sauropods. Although our results agree that the plesiomorphic condition for Sauropodomorpha is cyclical growth dynamics, we found that the hypothesized dichotomy between the growth patterns of basal and more derived sauropodomorphs is not supported. Here, we show that sauropod-like growth dynamics of uninterrupted rapid growth also occurred in some basal sauropodomorphs, and that some basal sauropods retained the plesiomorphic cyclical growth patterns. Among the sauropodomorpha it appears that the basal taxa exploited different growth strategies, but the more derived Eusauropoda successfully utilized rapid, uninterrupted growth strategies.

<![CDATA[A New Giant Titanosauria (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) from the Late Cretaceous Bauru Group, Brazil]]>

Titanosaurian dinosaurs include some of the largest land-living animals that ever existed, and most were discovered in Cretaceous deposits of Argentina. Here we describe the first Brazilian gigantic titanosaur, Austroposeidon magnificus gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Cretaceous Presidente Prudente Formation (Bauru Group, Paraná Basin), São Paulo State, southeast Brazil. The size of this animal is estimated around 25 meters. It consists of a partial vertebral column composed by the last two cervical and the first dorsal vertebrae, all fairly complete and incomplete portions of at least one sacral and seven dorsal elements. The new species displays four autapomorphies: robust and tall centropostzygapophyseal laminae (cpol) in the last cervical vertebrae; last cervical vertebra bearing the posterior centrodiapophyseal lamina (pcdl) bifurcated; first dorsal vertebra with the anterior and posterior centrodiapophyseal laminae (acdl/pcdl) curved ventrolaterally, and the diapophysis reaching the dorsal margin of the centrum; posterior dorsal vertebra bearing forked spinoprezygapophyseal laminae (sprl). The phylogenetic analysis presented here reveals that Austroposeidon magnificus is the sister group of the Lognkosauria. CT scans reveal some new osteological internal features in the cervical vertebrae such as the intercalation of dense growth rings with camellae, reported for the first time in sauropods. The new taxon further shows that giant titanosaurs were also present in Brazil during the Late Cretaceous and provides new information about the evolution and internal osteological structures in the vertebrae of the Titanosauria clade.

<![CDATA[Apparent sixth sense in theropod evolution: The making of a Cretaceous weathervane]]>


Two separate and distinctive skills are necessary to find prey: Detection of its presence and determination of its location. Surface microscopy of the dentary of albertosaurines revealed a previously undescribed sensory modification, as will be described here. While dentary “foramina” were previously thought to contain tactile sensory organs, the potential function of this theropod modification as a unique localizing system is explored in this study.


Dentary surface perforations were examined by surface epi-illumination microscopy in tyrannosaurine and albertosaurine dinosaurs to characterize their anatomy. Fish lateral lines were examined as potentially comparable structures.


In contrast to the subsurface vascular bifurcation noted in tyrannosaurines (which lack a lateral dentary surface groove), the area subjacent to the apertures in albertosaurine grooves has the appearance of an expanded chamber. That appearance seemed to be indistinguishable from the lateral line of fish.


Dentary groove apertures in certain tyrannosaurid lines (specifically albertosaurines) not only have a unique appearance, but one with significant functional and behavior implications. The appearance of the perforations in the dentary groove of albertosaurines mirrors that previously noted only with specialized neurologic structures accommodating derived sensory functions, as seen in the lateral line of fish. The possibility that this specialized morphology could also represent a unique function in albertosaurine theropods for interacting with the environment or facilitating prey acquisition cannot be ignored. It is suggested that these expanded chambers function in perceiving and aligning the body relative to the direction of wind, perhaps a Cretaceous analogue of the contemporary midwestern weathervane.

<![CDATA[A Basal Lithostrotian Titanosaur (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) with a Complete Skull: Implications for the Evolution and Paleobiology of Titanosauria]]>

We describe Sarmientosaurus musacchioi gen. et sp. nov., a titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian—Turonian) Lower Member of the Bajo Barreal Formation of southern Chubut Province in central Patagonia, Argentina. The holotypic and only known specimen consists of an articulated, virtually complete skull and part of the cranial and middle cervical series. Sarmientosaurus exhibits the following distinctive features that we interpret as autapomorphies: (1) maximum diameter of orbit nearly 40% rostrocaudal length of cranium; (2) complex maxilla—lacrimal articulation, in which the lacrimal clasps the ascending ramus of the maxilla; (3) medial edge of caudal sector of maxillary ascending ramus bordering bony nasal aperture with low but distinct ridge; (4) ‘tongue-like’ ventral process of quadratojugal that overlaps quadrate caudally; (5) separate foramina for all three branches of the trigeminal nerve; (6) absence of median venous canal connecting infundibular region to ventral part of brainstem; (7) subvertical premaxillary, procumbent maxillary, and recumbent dentary teeth; (8) cervical vertebrae with ‘strut-like’ centroprezygapophyseal laminae; (9) extremely elongate and slender ossified tendon positioned ventrolateral to cervical vertebrae and ribs. The cranial endocast of Sarmientosaurus preserves some of the most complete information obtained to date regarding the brain and sensory systems of sauropods. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the new taxon as a basal member of Lithostrotia, as the most plesiomorphic titanosaurian to be preserved with a complete skull. Sarmientosaurus provides a wealth of new cranial evidence that reaffirms the close relationship of titanosaurs to Brachiosauridae. Moreover, the presence of the relatively derived lithostrotian Tapuiasaurus in Aptian deposits indicates that the new Patagonian genus represents a ‘ghost lineage’ with a comparatively plesiomorphic craniodental form, the evolutionary history of which is missing for at least 13 million years of the Cretaceous. The skull anatomy of Sarmientosaurus suggests that multiple titanosaurian species with dissimilar cranial structures coexisted in the early Late Cretaceous of southern South America. Furthermore, the new taxon possesses a number of distinctive morphologies—such as the ossified cervical tendon, extremely pneumatized cervical vertebrae, and a habitually downward-facing snout—that have rarely, if ever, been documented in other titanosaurs, thus broadening our understanding of the anatomical diversity of this remarkable sauropod clade. The latter two features were convergently acquired by at least one penecontemporaneous diplodocoid, and may represent mutual specializations for consuming low-growing vegetation.

<![CDATA[Two new ootaxa from the late Jurassic: The oldest record of crocodylomorph eggs, from the Lourinhã Formation, Portugal]]>

The Late Jurassic Lourinhã Formation is known for its abundant remains of dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs and other vertebrates. Among this record are nine localities that have produced either dinosaur embryos, eggs or eggshell fragments. Herein, we describe and identify the first crocodiloid morphotype eggs and eggshells from the Lourinhã Formation, from five occurrences. One clutch from Cambelas, composed of 13 eggs, eggshell fragments from Casal da Rola and Peralta, one crushed egg and eggshells from Paimogo North, and four crushed eggs as well as eggshell fragments from Paimogo South. We observed and confirmed diagnostic morphological characters for crocodiloid eggshells and which are consistent with a crocodylomorph affinity, such as the ellipsoidal shape, wedge-shaped shell units, triangular extinction under cross-polarized light, and tabular ultrastructure. This material is distinctive enough to propose two new ootaxa within the oofamily Krokolithidae, Suchoolithus portucalensis, oogen. and oosp. nov., for the material from Cambelas, the most complete clutch known for crocodiloid eggs, and Krokolithes dinophilus, oosp. nov., for the remaining material. These are the oldest crocodylomorph eggs known, extending the fossil record for this group to the Late Jurassic. Furthermore, except for the clutch from Cambelas, the material was found with theropod eggs and nests, in the other four occurrences, which seem to suggest some form of biological relationship, still unclear at this point.