Monday, September 19, 2011

Talos sampsoni, a new troodontid from Utah

After the Chinese Linhevenator, yet, another troodontid, Talos sampsoni, has just been described in the current issue of PLoS ONE. This one is from the distinct and quite specific fauna of the Kaiparowits formation of Utah, which included the unique ceratopsians Kosmoceratops, Utahceratops and Nasutuceratops, the tyrannosaurid Teratophoneus, the hadrosaur Gryposaurus and the Oviraptosaur Hagryphus. Talos is essentially known from remains of the hindlimbs plus a few other bits such as some  vertebrae, and a left ulna. It was probably similar in shape to the other derived troodonts with short forelimbs, long legs and had a sickle claw on each foot.

Lindsay E. Zanno, David J. Varricchio, Patrick M. O'Connor, Alan L. Titus and Michael J. Knell. 2011. A new troodontid theropod, Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America. PLoS ONE 9 (6): e24487.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum, new boreal dinosaur from Alaska

Fig 1.- Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum.
Anthony R. Fiorillo, and Ronald S. Tykoski, from the Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, TX, have just described a new species of Ceratopsian (Horned dinosaur), Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum from the Prince Creek formation of the North Slope in the northernmost region of Alaska. The species is based on two fragments of parietals (which in Ceratopsians are the bones that formed the frill) and a partial skull.

What makes P. perotorum special is that it was a boreal dinosaur. During the Late Cretaceous, Alaska was situated at latitudes similar or higher than its current geographical position, meaning that its northern inhabitants experienced, as of today, a yearly 6 month long winter night with freezing temperature. Polar dinosaurs are also known from the southern hemisphere with representatives of the early Cretaceous period such as the hypsilophodont Leallynasaura amicagraphica from Australia featured in WWD. The Late Cretaceous Prince Creek formation of Alaska, however, appears to be the richest trove of polar dinosaur bones from either hemisphere. The Kikak-Tegoseak Quarry where the P. perotorum remains were unearthed, also include bones of the raptors Dromaeosaurus albertensis and Troodon formosus as well as remains attributed to the tyrannosaur Gorgosaurus libratus, some hadrosaurs and the Pachycephalosaur Alaskacephale gangloffi.

Fig 2.- Pachyrhinosaurus canadensis.

P. perotorum is the third named species of the genus Pachyrhinosaurus which contains Ceratopsians with massive flattened bosses in place of the usual horns on the nose and above the eyes. The larger 6 meter long P. canadensis was described in 1950. It is known from the St Mary River (Upper Campanian-Lower Maastrichtian) and Horseshoe Canyon Formations (Lower Maastrichtian) of Alberta, Canada. The smaller 5 meter long P. lakustai, described in 2008 from the Wapiti Formation (Late Campanian) of Alberta, differs from P. canadensis by well-separated nasal and supraorbital bosses and by the presence of a comb of horns on the parietal bone just behind the eyes.
Fig 3.- Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.

P. perotorum is the youngest (Lower Maastrichtian) of the three species, and about the same size as P. lakustai. It is characterized by the unique anterior parietal pair of horns just at the top edge of the parietal cavities (the large holes in the frill), and a narrow dome in a back portion of the nasal boss. The bizarre blunt rounded rostrum might just be an individual oddity (the partial skull is apparently from an aged individual). A recently discovered specimen numbered TMP 2002.76.1 (Housed at the Royal Tyrrel Museum), from the Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, which shows similarities with both Pachyrhinosaurus and Achelousaurus, might represent a fourth species.

Pachyrhinosaurus belongs to the Pachyrhinosauri tribe of the Centrosaurine Ceratopsian that also contains the basal genera with enlarged nasal horns Einiosaurus and Rubeosaurus, as well as the derived forms with nasal and supraorbital bosses, Achelousaurus.

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)
P. J. Currie, W. Langston, and D. H. Tanke. 2008. A new species of Pachyrhinosaurus (Dinosauria, Ceratopsidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. In P. J. Currie, W. Langston Jr., D. H. Tanke (eds.), in A New Horned Dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous Bone Bed in Alberta. NRC Research Press, Ottawa 1-108.

A.R. Fiorillo, and R.S.T. Tykoski, R.S.T.  2011. A new species of the centrosaurine ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus from the North Slope (Prince Creek Formation: Maastrichtian) of Alaska. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. In press.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Linhevenator tani, a new troodontid from China

Fig 1.- Reconstruction of Linhevenator tani.

Troodontids are a family of very bird-like small theropods with long legs and enlarged braincases.  Phylogenetically, they are placed alongside the dromaeosaurs (Velociraptor, Deinonychus and friends) among the Deinonychosaurians, a sister group to the birds. Fossils of troodonts were found in Asia, Europe and North America in sediments dating from the Upper Jurassic to the Upper Cretaceous periods. Some of the better known troodonts include the Early Cretaceous Mei long (the shortest name given to a dinosaur, and meaning “sleeping dragon” because its exceptionally preserved articulated skeleton has been found in a sleeping position) and the Late Cretaceous Troodon formosus from North America, which was originally described on the basis of a single characteristic serrated tooth, but which is now known from multiple fragmentary specimens (previously referred as "Stenonychosaurus").

Fig 2.- The holotype (LH V0021) of Linhevenator tani (Xu et al., 2011). Licensed under CC 2.5. Scale bar is 2 cm.

Xing Xu and colleagues are reporting in the September 2011 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE, a new troodontid from the Late Cretaceous Wulansuhai Formation of Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia. The Wulansuhai Formation is equivalent to the famous Mongolian dinosaur bearing Djadokhta Formation of Campanian age. This new species, Linhevenator tani is known from a partly articulated skeleton that includes the skull, several vertebrae, pelvic girdle and limb elements. Although badly weathered, the remains are of particular interest are they are to date the most complete ones from a Late Cretaceous Troodontid and therefore likely to shed new lights on the more derived members of this family. Linhevenator was a rather large species (around 2-3 meters in length) characterized by rather short arms (the humeri measured only 40% of the length of the femur) and with a sickle clawed second digit on each foot similar to those of the dromaeosaurs, although these may be in fact common traits to all derived troodontids such as Troodon and Saurornithoides.

Xing Xu, Qingwei Tan, Corwin Sullivan, Fenglu Han and Dong Xiao. 2011. A Short-Armed Troodontid Dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia and its Implications for Troodontid Evolution. PLoS ONE 6 (9): e22916

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stegosaurs of the British Isles

Fig 1.- Lexovisaurus durobrivensis (= Loricatosaurus priscus)

Compared to the Stegosaurs of North America, restricted to the sole Morrison Formation and represented only by 1 or 2 genera and a handful of species, all from the Kimmeridgian-Tithonian age of the Late Jurassic, the plated dinosaurs from England appear comparatively more diversified with up to 6 genera spanning from the Middle Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous. Unfortunately, the fossils there are for the most part quite scrappy, consisting of teeth, bits of plates and other bones, making their identification difficult or even dubious.  Susannah Maidment and colleagues in their 2008 general revision of the Stegosauria, have recognized only 2 valid species to the United Kingdom, Dacentrurus armatus and the newly erected Loricatosaurus priscus, but this is certainly an underestimation. Let’s make a quick overview of stegosaurian materials found in England.

Middle Jurassic Stegosaurs

The most ancient British stegosaurs date from the Bathonian stage (165-168 MYA) of the Middle Jurassic and consist of a few isolated bones, including a massive right femur of a juvenile individual from the Cornbrah formation of Oxfordshire (Upper Batthonian), two incomplete vertebrae from the Sharp’s Hill Formation of Oxfordshire and two large dermal plates from the Chipping Norton Formation of Gloucestershire. These bones were all referred to “Lexovisaurus” vetustus (= “Omosaurus” vetustus). All that can be said is that they are the oldest recorded Stegosaurids in the world (the family to which all the most derived stegosaurs such as Stegosaurus and Kentrosaurus belong) and that a least one large species was present in Europe at that time.

Next, from the Middle Callovian (161-165 MYA) Oxford Clay Formation came Lexovisaurus durobrivensis, known from two partial skeletons. Maidment et al, 2008 have invalidated the name Lexovisaurus, on the basis that no unique character could be found in the holotype specimen. In its stead, a new genus, Loricatosaurus, was erected for the second partial skeleton that includes vertebrae, various pelvic and limb elements, and a piece of dermal armor, and folded into the species Loricatosaurus priscus. A large dermal plate named ‘Omosaurus leedsi’ from the same locality may be from the same animal. A third partial skeleton from a contemporary formation in Normandy, France is also referred to Loricatosaurus priscus. However there is no real indication that Lexovisaurus durobrivensis and Loricatosaurus priscus represent different taxa and the two might well be the same. Loricatosaurus probably measured about 5-6 meters in length. It is characterized by relatively short limbs and narrow plates and spines on the back. Shoulder spines may or may not have been present (A previously reported shoulder spine in the skeleton turns out to be a tail spine instead).

Upper Jurassic Stegosaurs
Fig 2.- Dacentrurus armatus.

From the Coralline Oolite Formation, Yorkshire, of Middle Oxfordian age (156-161 MYA), came a poorly preserved femur of a juvenile individual that has been named ‘Omosaurus phillipsi’ (= ‘Dacentrurus phillipsi’). There is no real indication that it was a stegosaur at all and the name is considered a nomen dubium (dubious name).

From the Kimmeridge Clay Formation of Wiltshire, of Lower Kimmeridgian age (151-156 MYA), came Dacentrurus armatus, a partial skeleton preserved in a large slab on exhibit at the Natural History Museum of London. Some fragmentary materials from France, Spain and Portugal were also referred to Dacentrurus. It was a large stegosaur with an estimated length of some 8 meters. Its aspect is not well known, but it probably resembled the African Kentrosaurus. From the Kimmeridge Clay also came a few dermal spines named “Omosaurus hastiger” that might belong to the same animal than Dacentrurus

Fig 3.- Dacentrurus armatus holotype on display at the Natural History Museum in London (Credit: Emőke Dénes, via Wikipedia)

Early Cretaceous Stegosaurs

From the Lower Cretaceous Wealden Beds, Sussex of Valanginian age (136-140 MYA), came a partial right mandible, Regnosaurus northamptoni, that was variously attributed to the Ornithopod Iguanodon (Mantell, 1841), the ankylosaur Hylaeosaurus (Owen, 1858), a scelidosaur (Lydekker, 1888), and even a sauropod (Ostrom, 1970) until it was discarded as a nomen dubium (Coombs, 1971). However, more recently, Barrett & Upchurch, 1995, resuscitated Regnosaurus as a stegosaur and found it to be a relict of the old stegosaurian lineage that included the Chinese Huayangosaurus. The dubious Craterosaurus pottonensis, known from a single incomplete and poorly preserved dorsal vertebra, has been described as a stegosaur, but that is probably more wishful thinking. Interestingly Craterosaurus from Bedfordshire is probably also of Valanginian age.

Fig 4.- Regnosaurus northamtoni was a close relative of Huayangosaurus taibaii.

This concludes our tour of the stegosaurian remains of England.

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)


P. M. Barret & P. Upchurch. 1995. Regnosaurus northamptoni, a stegosaurian dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Southern England. Geological Magazine 132: 213–222.

P. M. Galton and H.P. Powell, H. P. 1983. Stegosaurian dinosaurs from the Bathonian (Middle Jurassic) of England, the earliest record of the Family Stegosauridae. Geobios 16: 219-229.

P. M. Galton. 1985. British plated dinosaurs (Ornithischia, Stegosauridae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 5(3):211-254.

S. C. R. Maidment, D. B. Norman, P. M. Barrett and P. Upchurch. 2008. Systematics and phylogeny of Stegosauria (Dinosauria: Ornithischia). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 6(4):367-407.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Smok wawelski, giant Late Triassic Archosaur from Poland

The Wawel Dragon (in Polish ‘Smok Wawelski’) is a famous beast of the Polish folklore that was bringing havoc in the countryside near Krakow until a poor young cobbler’s apprentice saved the day by wittingly killing the monster and marrying the princess to live happily ever after.

This is the name chosen by the authors (G. Niedźwiedzki, T., Sulej, T., and J. Dzik) of a new article published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica for an enigmatic archosaur that once roamed Poland during the very Late Triassic period, some 200-205 MYA. The animal is known from a braincase, skull fragments, pelvic elements, limb fragments and a few other bits found in the Lipie Śląskie claypit, near the village of Lisowice. The exact affinities of the animal are unresolved at this time as Smok displays a mixture of characteristics that pertain to both theropod dinosaurs and to more ancient archosaur lineages such as the ornithosuchids and rauisuchians (think Postosuchus of WWD fame). Some tridactyl fossilized footprints found in the vicinity might belong to the beast and show that it was bipedal. One thing is certain though: Smok was a large predator, with an estimated length of some 5-6 meters, and to date is the largest late Triassic predator ever found in Central Europe. 

The authors of the study state that the paper that has just been accepted for publication is only an initial report and that a full phylogenetical placement of Smok is still a WIP, the subject on the on-going PhD thesis by the first author. So we will likely hear more on Smok wawelski in the near future. Whatever Smok was, it shows the existence of large bipedal carnivores in the Late Triassic that anticipates the future theropod dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Reconstruction here is based on the published skeletal. Osteoderms are hypothetical.

G. Niedźwiedzki, T. Sulej, and J. Dzik. 2011. A large predatory archosaur from the Late Triassic of Poland., in press.

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)