Minmi is the only known genus of ankylosaurian dinosaur from Australia. Seven specimens are known, all from the Lower Cretaceous of Queensland. Only two of these have been described in any detail: the holotype specimen Minmi paravertebra from the Bungil Formation near Roma, and a near complete skeleton from the Allaru Mudstone on Marathon Station near Richmond, preliminarily referred to a possible new species of Minmi. The Marathon specimen represents one of the world’s most complete ankylosaurian skeletons and the best-preserved dinosaurian fossil from eastern Gondwana. Moreover, among ankylosaurians, its skull is one of only a few in which the majority of sutures have not been obliterated by dermal ossifications or surface remodelling. Recent preparation of the Marathon specimen has revealed new details of the palate and narial regions, permitting a comprehensive description and thus providing new insights cranial osteology of a basal ankylosaurian. The skull has also undergone computed tomography, digital segmentation and 3D computer visualisation enabling the reconstruction of its nasal cavity and endocranium. The airways of the Marathon specimen are more complicated than non-ankylosaurian dinosaurs but less so than derived ankylosaurians. The cranial (brain) endocast is superficially similar to those of other ankylosaurians but is strongly divergent in many important respects. The inner ear is extremely large and unlike that of any dinosaur yet known. Based on a high number of diagnostic differences between the skull of the Marathon specimen and other ankylosaurians, we consider it prudent to assign this specimen to a new genus and species of ankylosaurian. Kunbarrasaurus ieversi gen. et sp. nov. represents the second genus of ankylosaurian from Australia and is characterised by an unusual melange of both primitive and derived characters, shedding new light on the evolution of the ankylosaurian skull.
Few ankylosaurs are known from more than a single specimen, but the ankylosaurid Euoplocephalus tutus (from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada and Montana, USA) is represented by dozens of skulls and partial skeletons, and is therefore an important taxon for understanding intraspecific variation in ankylosaurs. Euoplocephalus is unusual compared to other dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta because it is recognized from the Dinosaur Park, Horseshoe Canyon, and Two Medicine formations. A comprehensive review of material attributed to Euoplocephalus finds support for the resurrection of its purported synonyms Anodontosaurus lambei and Scolosaurus cutleri, and the previously resurrected Dyoplosaurus acutosquameus. Anodontosaurus is found primarily in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation of Alberta and is characterized by ornamentation posterior to the orbits and on the first cervical half ring, and wide, triangular knob osteoderms. Euoplocephalus is primarily found in Megaherbivore Assemblage Zone 1 in the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta and is characterized by the absence of ornamentation posterior to the orbits and on the first cervical half ring, and keeled medial osteoderms on the first cervical half ring. Scolosaurus is found primarily in the Two Medicine Formation of Montana (although the holotype is from Dinosaur Provincial Park), and is characterized by long, back-swept squamosal horns, ornamentation posterior to the orbit, and low medial osteoderms on the first cervical half ring; Oohkotokia horneri is morphologically indistinguishable from Scolosaurus cutleri. Dyoplosaurus was previously differentiated from Euoplocephalus sensu lato by the morphology of the pelvis and pes, and these features also differentiate Dyoplosaurus from Anodontosaurus and Scolosaurus; a narrow tail club knob is probably also characteristic for Dyoplosaurus.
The tail club knob is a highly specialized structure thought to characterize a subgroup of the ankylosaurine ankylosaurians, and the oldest documented tail club knob in the fossil record occurred in the Campanian ankylosaurine Pinacosaurus. Here we report a new ankylosaurid Jinyunpelta sinensis, gen. et sp. nov., from the Albian-Cenomanian Liangtoutang Formation, Jinyun County, Zhejiang, China. This is the first definitive and the best preserved ankylosaurid dinosaur ever found in southern China. Jinyunpelta possesses unique cranial features differs from other ankylosaurs including two paranasal apertures level with and posterior to the external naris, a triangular fossa on the anterodorsal edge of the maxilla, an antorbital fossa in the junction between the maxilla, lacrimal and jugal, and an anterior process of the prearticular that lies ventral to the splenial. Our phylogenetic analysis suggests Jinyunpelta as the most basal ankylosaurine dinosaur. Jinyunpelta has a tail club with interlocking caudal vertebrae and a well-developed tail club knob, it represents the oldest and the most basal ankylosaurian known to have a well-developed tail club knob. The new discovery thus demonstrates that a large and highly modified tail club evolved at the base of the ankylosaurine ankylosaurs at least about 100 million years ago.
A new ankylosaurid (Ankylosauria: Dinosauria), Ziapelta sanjuanensis, gen. et sp. nov., is based on a complete skull, an incomplete first cervical half ring, a possible fragment of the second cervical half ring, and additional fragmentary osteoderms. The holotype specimen is from the Upper Cretaceous (Upper Campanian, Kirtlandian Land-Vertebrate Age) Kirtland Formation (De-na-zin Member) at Hunter Wash, San Juan Basin, in northwestern New Mexico, USA. Diagnostic characters of Ziapelta include: a large, prominent triangular median nasal caputegulum; a mixture of flat and bulbous frontonasal caputegulae; ventrolaterally oriented squamosal horns with a sharp, prominent dorsal keel; and the ventral surface of basicranium with three prominent anteroposteriorly oriented fossae. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that Ziapelta is not closely related to the other ankylosaurid from the De-na-zin Member, Nodocephalosaurus, but allies it to the northern North American ankylosaurids Ankylosaurus, Anodontosaurus, Euoplocephalus, Dyoplosaurus, and Scolosaurus.
The ankylosaurs are one of the major dinosaur groups and are characterized by unique body armor. Previous studies on other dinosaur taxa have revealed growth patterns, life history and evolutionary mechanisms based on their long bone histology. However, to date nothing is known about long bone histology in the Ankylosauria. This study is the first description of ankylosaurian long bone histology based on several limb elements, which were sampled from different individuals from the Ankylosauridae and Nodosauridae. The histology is compared to that of other dinosaur groups, including other Thyreophora and Sauropodomorpha. Ankylosaur long bone histology is characterized by a fibrolamellar bone architecture. The bone matrix type in ankylosaurs is closest to that of Stegosaurus. A distinctive mixture of woven and parallel-fibered bone together with overall poor vascularization indicates slow growth rates compared to other dinosaurian taxa. Another peculiar characteristic of ankylosaur bone histology is the extensive remodeling in derived North American taxa. In contrast to other taxa, ankylosaurs substitute large amounts of their primary tissue early in ontogeny. This anomaly may be linked to the late ossification of the ankylosaurian body armor. Metabolically driven remodeling processes must have liberated calcium to ossify the protective osteodermal structures in juveniles to subadult stages, which led to further remodeling due to increased mechanical loading. Abundant structural fibers observed in the primary bone and even in remodeled bone may have improved the mechanical properties of the Haversian bone.
Discovery of a pelvis attributed to the Late Jurassic armor-plated dinosaur Gargoyleosaurus sheds new light on the origin of the peculiar non-vertical, broad, flaring pelvis of ankylosaurs. It further substantiates separation of the two ankylosaurs from the Morrison Formation of the western United States, Gargoyleosaurus and Mymoorapelta. Although horizontally oriented and lacking the medial curve of the preacetabular process seen in Mymoorapelta, the new ilium shows little of the lateral flaring seen in the pelvis of Cretaceous ankylosaurs. Comparison with the basal thyreophoran Scelidosaurus demonstrates that the ilium in ankylosaurs did not develop entirely by lateral rotation as is commonly believed. Rather, the preacetabular process rotated medially and ventrally and the postacetabular process rotated in opposition, i.e., lateral and ventrally. Thus, the dorsal surfaces of the preacetabular and postacetabular processes are not homologous. In contrast, a series of juvenile Stegosaurus ilia show that the postacetabular process rotated dorsally ontogenetically. Thus, the pelvis of the two major types of Thyreophora most likely developed independently. Examination of other ornithischians show that a non-vertical ilium had developed independently in several different lineages, including ceratopsids, pachycephalosaurs, and iguanodonts. Therefore, a separate origin for the non-vertical ilium in stegosaurs and ankylosaurs does have precedent.
Taphonomic deformation can make the interpretation of vertebrate fossil morphology difficult. The effects of taphonomic deformation are investigated in two ankylosaurid dinosaur taxa, Euoplocephalus tutus (to investigate effects on our understanding of intraspecific variation) and Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani (to investigate the validity of this genus). The ratio of orbit maximum rostrocaudal length to perpendicular height is used as a strain ellipse, which can be used to determine if ankylosaur skull fossils have been dorsoventrally compacted during fossilization and diagenesis. The software program Geomagic is used to retrodeform three-dimensional (3D) digital models of the ankylosaur skulls. The effects of sediment compaction are modeled using finite element analysis, and the resulting strain distributions are compared with the retrodeformed models as a test of the retrodeformation method. Taphonomic deformation can account for a large amount of intraspecific variation in Euoplocephalus, but finite element analysis and retrodeformation of Minotaurasaurus shows that many of its diagnostic features are unlikely to result from deformation.
Ankylosaurian dinosaurs are most notable for their abundant and morphologically diverse osteoderms, which would have given them a spiky appearance in life. Isolated osteoderms are relatively common and provide important information about the structure of the ankylosaur dermis, but fossilized impressions of the soft-tissue epidermis of ankylosaurs are rare. Nevertheless, well-preserved integument exists on several ankylosaur fossils that shows osteoderms were covered by a single epidermal scale, but one or many millimeter-sized ossicles may be present under polygonal, basement epidermal scales. Evidence for the taxonomic utility of ankylosaurid epidermal scale architecture is presented for the first time. This study builds on previous osteological work that argues for a greater diversity of ankylosaurids in the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta than has been traditionally recognized and adds to the hypothesis that epidermal skin impressions are taxonomically relevant across diverse dinosaur clades. J. Morphol. 275:39-50, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.