The running ability of Tyrannosaurus rex has been intensively studied due to its relevance to interpretations of feeding behaviour and the biomechanics of scaling in giant predatory dinosaurs. Different studies using differing methodologies have produced a very wide range of top speed estimates and there is therefore a need to develop techniques that can improve these predictions. Here we present a new approach that combines two separate biomechanical techniques (multibody dynamic analysis and skeletal stress analysis) to demonstrate that true running gaits would probably lead to unacceptably high skeletal loads in T. rex. Combining these two approaches reduces the high-level of uncertainty in previous predictions associated with unknown soft tissue parameters in dinosaurs, and demonstrates that the relatively long limb segments of T. rex-long argued to indicate competent running ability-would actually have mechanically limited this species to walking gaits. Being limited to walking speeds contradicts arguments of high-speed pursuit predation for the largest bipedal dinosaurs like T. rex, and demonstrates the power of multiphysics approaches for locomotor reconstructions of extinct animals.
Most carnivorous mammals can pulverize skeletal elements by generating tooth pressures between occluding teeth that exceed cortical bone shear strength, thereby permitting access to marrow and phosphatic salts. Conversely, carnivorous reptiles have non-occluding dentitions that engender negligible bone damage during feeding. As a result, most reptilian predators can only consume bones in their entirety. Nevertheless, North American tyrannosaurids, including the giant (13 metres [m]) theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex stand out for habitually biting deeply into bones, pulverizing and digesting them. How this mammal-like capacity was possible, absent dental occlusion, is unknown. Here we analyzed T. rex feeding behaviour from trace evidence, estimated bite forces and tooth pressures, and studied tooth-bone contacts to provide the answer. We show that bone pulverization was made possible through a combination of: (1) prodigious bite forces (8,526-34,522 newtons [N]) and tooth pressures (718-2,974 megapascals [MPa]) promoting crack propagation in bones, (2) tooth form and dental arcade configurations that concentrated shear stresses, and (3) repetitive, localized biting. Collectively, these capacities and behaviors allowed T. rex to finely fragment bones and more fully exploit large dinosaur carcasses for sustenance relative to competing carnivores.
The Late Cretaceous (∼95-66 million years ago) western North American landmass of Laramidia displayed heightened non-marine vertebrate diversity and intracontinental regionalism relative to other latest Cretaceous Laurasian ecosystems. Processes generating these patterns during this interval remain poorly understood despite their presumed role in the diversification of many clades. Tyrannosauridae, a clade of large-bodied theropod dinosaurs restricted to the Late Cretaceous of Laramidia and Asia, represents an ideal group for investigating Laramidian patterns of evolution. We use new tyrannosaurid discoveries from Utah-including a new taxon which represents the geologically oldest member of the clade-to investigate the evolution and biogeography of Tyrannosauridae. These data suggest a Laramidian origin for Tyrannosauridae, and implicate sea-level related controls in the isolation, diversification, and dispersal of this and many other Late Cretaceous vertebrate clades.
Diplodocids are among the best known sauropod dinosaurs. Numerous specimens of currently 15 accepted species belonging to ten genera have been reported from the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. The highest diversity is known from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of the western United States: a recent review recognized 12 valid, named species, and possibly three additional, yet unnamed ones. One of these is herein described in detail and referred to the genus Galeamopus. The holotype specimen of Galeamopus pabsti sp. nov., SMA 0011, is represented by material from all body parts but the tail, and was found at the Howe-Scott Quarry in the northern Bighorn Basin in Wyoming, USA. Autapomorphic features of the new species include a horizontal canal on the maxilla that connects the posterior margin of the preantorbital and the ventral margin of the antorbital fenestrae, a vertical midline groove marking the sagittal nuchal crest, the presence of a large foramen connecting the postzygapophyseal centrodiapophyseal fossa and the spinopostzygapophyseal fossa of mid- and posterior cervical vertebrae, a very robust humerus, a laterally placed, rugose tubercle on the concave proximal portion of the anterior surface of the humerus, a relatively stout radius, the absence of a distinct ambiens process on the pubis, and a distinctly concave posteroventral margin of the ascending process of the astragalus. In addition to the holotype specimen SMA 0011, the skull USNM 2673 can also be referred to Galeamopus pabsti. Histology shows that the type specimen SMA 0011 is sexually mature, although neurocentral closure was not completed at the time of death. Because SMA 0011 has highly pneumatized cervical vertebrae, the development of the lamination appears a more important indicator for individual age than neurocentral fusion patterns. SMA 0011 is one of very few sauropod specimens that preserves the cervico-dorsal transition in both vertebrae and ribs. The association of ribs with their respective vertebrae shows that the transition between cervical and dorsal vertebrae is significantly different in Galeamopus pabsti than in Diplodocus carnegii or Apatosaurus louisae, being represented by a considerable shortening of the centra from the last cervical to the first dorsal vertebra. Diplodocids show a surprisingly high diversity in the Morrison Formation. This can possibly be explained by a combination of geographical and temporal segregation, and niche partitioning.
- Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
- Published over 5 years ago
High megaherbivore species richness is documented in both fossil and contemporary ecosystems despite their high individual energy requirements. An extreme example of this is the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation, which was dominated by sauropod dinosaurs, the largest known terrestrial vertebrates. High sauropod diversity within the resource-limited Morrison is paradoxical, but might be explicable through sophisticated resource partitioning. This hypothesis was tested through finite-element analysis of the crania of the Morrison taxa Camarasaurus and Diplodocus. Results demonstrate divergent specialization, with Camarasaurus capable of exerting and accommodating greater bite forces than Diplodocus, permitting consumption of harder food items. Analysis of craniodental biomechanical characters taken from 35 sauropod taxa demonstrates a functional dichotomy in terms of bite force, cranial robustness and occlusal relationships yielding two polyphyletic functional ‘grades’. Morrison taxa are widely distributed within and between these two morphotypes, reflecting distinctive foraging specializations that formed a biomechanical basis for niche partitioning between them. This partitioning, coupled with benefits associated with large body size, would have enabled the high sauropod diversities present in the Morrison Formation. Further, this provides insight into the mechanisms responsible for supporting the high diversities of large megaherbivores observed in other Mesozoic and Cenozoic communities, particularly those occurring in resource-limited environments.
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry (CLDQ) is the densest deposit of Jurassic theropod dinosaurs discovered to date. Unlike typical Jurassic bone deposits, it is dominated by the presence of Allosaurus fragilis. Since excavation began in the 1920s, numerous hypotheses have been put forward to explain the taphonomy of CLDQ, including a predator trap, a drought assemblage, and a poison spring. In an effort to reconcile the various interpretations of the quarry and reach a consensus on the depositional history of CLDQ, new data is required to develop a robust taphonomic framework congruent with all available data. Here we present two new data sets that aid in the development of such a robust taphonomic framework for CLDQ. First, x-ray fluorescence of CLDQ sediments indicate elevated barite and sulfide minerals relative to other sediments from the Morrison Formation in the region, suggesting an ephemeral environment dominated by periods of hypereutrophic conditions during bone accumulation. Second, the degree of abrasion and hydraulic equivalency of small bone fragments dispersed throughout the matrix were analyzed from CLDQ. Results of these analyses suggest that bone fragments are autochthonous or parautochthonous and are derived from bones deposited in the assemblage rather than transported. The variability in abrasion exhibited by the fragments is most parsimoniously explained by local periodic re-working and re-deposition during seasonal fluctuations throughout the duration of the quarry assemblage. Collectively, these data support previous interpretations that the CLDQ represents an attritional assemblage in a poorly-drained overbank deposit where vertebrate remains were introduced post-mortem to an ephemeral pond during flood conditions. Furthermore, while the elevated heavy metals detected at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry are not likely the primary driver for the accumulation of carcasses, they are likely the result of multiple sources; some metals may be derived from post-depositional and diagenetic processes, and others are potentially produced from an abundance of decomposing vertebrate carcasses. These new data help to support the inferred depositional environment of the quarry as an ephemeral pond, and represent a significant step in understanding the taphonomy of the bonebed and Late Jurassic paleoecology in this region.
The Lourinhã Formation (Kimmeridgian-Tithonian) of Central West Portugal is well known for its diversified dinosaur fauna similar to that of the Morrison Formation of North America; both areas share dinosaur taxa including the top predator Torvosaurus, reported in Portugal. The material assigned to the Portuguese T. tanneri, consisting of a right maxilla and an incomplete caudal centrum, was briefly described in the literature and a thorough description of these bones is here given for the first time. A comparison with material referred to Torvosaurus tanneri allows us to highlight some important differences justifying the creation of a distinct Eastern species. Torvosaurus gurneyi n. sp. displays two autapomorphies among Megalosauroidea, a maxilla possessing fewer than eleven teeth and an interdental wall nearly coincidental with the lateral wall of the maxillary body. In addition, it differs from T. tanneri by a reduced number of maxillary teeth, the absence of interdental plates terminating ventrally by broad V-shaped points and falling short relative to the lateral maxillary wall, and the absence of a protuberant ridge on the anterior part of the medial shelf, posterior to the anteromedial process. T. gurneyi is the largest theropod from the Lourinhã Formation of Portugal and the largest land predator discovered in Europe hitherto. This taxon supports the mechanism of vicariance that occurred in the Iberian Meseta during the Late Jurassic when the proto-Atlantic was already well formed. A fragment of maxilla from the Lourinhã Formation referred to Torvosaurus sp. is ascribed to this new species, and several other bones, including a femur, a tibia and embryonic material all from the Kimmeridgian-Tithonian of Portugal, are tentatively assigned to T. gurneyi. A standard terminology and notation of the theropod maxilla is also proposed and a record of the Torvosaurus material from Portugal is given.
Although Stegosaurus is one of the most iconic dinosaurs, well-preserved fossils are rare and as a consequence there is still much that remains unknown about the taxon. A new, exceptionally complete individual affords the opportunity to describe the anatomy of Stegosaurus in detail for the first time in over a century, and enables additional comparisons with other stegosaurian dinosaurs. The new specimen is from the Red Canyon Ranch Quarry, near Shell Wyoming, and appears to have been so well preserved because it was buried rapidly in a pond or body of standing water immediately after death. The quarry is probably located in the middle part of the Morrison Formation, which is believed to be Tithonian in age in this area. The specimen is referable to Stegosaurus stenops based on the possession of an edentulous anterior portion of the dentary and elevated postzygapophyses on the cervical vertebrae. New information provided by the specimen concerns the morphology of the vertebrae, the iliosacral block and dermal armor. Several aspects of its morphology indicate the individual was not fully skeletally mature at the time of death, corroborating a previous histological study.
Remains of theropod dinosaurs are very rare in Northern Germany because the area was repeatedly submerged by a shallow epicontinental sea during the Mesozoic. Here, 80 Late Jurassic theropod teeth are described of which the majority were collected over decades from marine carbonates in nowadays abandoned and backfilled quarries of the 19th century. Eighteen different morphotypes (A-R) could be distinguished and 3D models based on micro-CT scans of the best examples of all morphotypes are included as supplements. The teeth were identified with the assistance of discriminant function analysis and cladistic analysis based on updated datamatrices. The results show that a large variety of theropod groups were present in the Late Jurassic of northern Germany. Identified specimens comprise basal Tyrannosauroidea, as well as Allosauroidea, Megalosauroidea cf. Marshosaurus, Megalosauridae cf. Torvosaurus and probably Ceratosauria. The formerly reported presence of Dromaeosauridae in the Late Jurassic of northern Germany could not be confirmed. Some teeth of this study resemble specimens described as pertaining to Carcharodontosauria (morphotype A) and Abelisauridae (morphotype K). This interpretation is however, not supported by discriminant function analysis and cladistic analysis. Two smaller morphotypes (N and Q) differ only in some probably size-related characteristics from larger morphotypes (B and C) and could well represent juveniles of adult specimens. The similarity of the northern German theropods with groups from contemporaneous localities suggests faunal exchange via land-connections in the Late Jurassic between Germany, Portugal and North America.
A new ichnospecies of a large theropod dinosaur, Megalosauripus transjuranicus, is described from the Reuchenette Formation (Early-Late Kimmeridgian, Late Jurassic) of NW Switzerland. It is based on very well-preserved and morphologically-distinct tracks (impressions) and several trackways, including different preservational types from different tracksites and horizons. All trackways were excavated along federal Highway A16 near Courtedoux (Canton Jura) and systematically documented in the field including orthophotos and laserscans. The best-preserved tracks were recovered and additional tracks were casted. Megalosauripus transjuranicus is characterized by tridactyl tracks with clear claw and digital pad impressions, and notably an exceptionally large and round first phalangeal pad on the fourth digit (PIV1) that is connected to digit IV and forms the round heel area. Due to this combination of features, M. transjuranicus clearly is of theropod (and not ornithopod) origin. M. transjuranicus is compared to other Megalosauripus tracks and similar ichnotaxa and other unassigned tracks from the Early Jurassic to Early Cretaceous. It is clearly different from other ichnogenera assigned to large theropods such as Eubrontes-Grallator from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic or Megalosauripus-Megalosauropus-Bueckeburgichnus and Therangospodus tracks from the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. A second tridactyl morphotype (called Morphotype II) is different from Megalosauripus transjuranicus in being subsymmetric, longer than wide (sometimes almost as wide as long), with blunt toe impressions and no evidence for discrete phalangeal pad and claw marks. Some Morphotype II tracks are found in trackways that are assigned to M. transjuranicus, to M.? transjuranicus or M. cf. transjuranicus indicating that some Morphotype II tracks are intra-trackway preservational variants of a morphological continuum of Megalosauripus transjuranicus. On the other hand, several up to 40 steps long trackways very consistently present Morphotype II features (notably blunt digits) and do not exhibit any of the features that are typical for Megalosauripus (notably phalangeal pads). Therefore, it is not very likely that these tracks are preservational variants of Megalosauripus transjuranicus or Megalosauripus isp. These trackways are interpreted to have been left by an ornithopod dinosaur. The high frequency of large theropod tracks in tidal-flat deposits of the Jura carbonate platform, associated on single ichnoassemblages with minute to medium-sized tridactyl and tiny to large sauropod tracks has important implications for the dinosaur community and for paleoenvironmental and paleogeographical reconstructions. As with most other known occurrences of Megalosauripus tracks, M. transjuranicus is found in coastal settings, which may reflect the preference of their theropod trackmakers for expanded carbonate flats where food was abundant.