A fragmentary cervico-pectoral lateral spine and partial humerus of an ankylosaur from the Early Cretaceous (early Valanginian) of Gronau in Westfalen, northwestern Germany, are described. The spine shows closest morphological similarities to the characteristic cervical and pectoral spines of Hylaeosaurus armatus from the late Valanginian of England. An extensive comparison of distal humeri among thyreophoran dinosaurs supports systematic differences in the morphology of the distal condyli between Ankylosauria and Stegosauria and a referral of the Gronau specimen to the former. The humerus fragment indicates a rather small individual, probably in the size range of H. armatus, and both specimens are determined herein as ?Hylaeosaurus sp.. A short overview of other purported ankylosaur material from the Berriasian-Valanginian of northwest Germany shows that, aside from the material described herein, only tracks can be attributed to this clade with confidence at present.
A new styracosternan ornithopod genus and species is here described based on a partial postcranial skeleton and an associated dentary tooth of a single specimen from the Arcillas de Morella Formation (Early Cretaceous, late Barremian) at the Morella locality, (Castellón, Spain). Morelladon beltrani gen. et sp. nov. is diagnosed by eight autapomorphic features. The set of autapomorphies includes: very elongated and vertical neural spines of the dorsal vertebrae, midline keel on ventral surface of the second to fourth sacral vertebrae restricted to the anterior half of the centrum, a posterodorsally inclined medial ridge on the postacetabular process of the ilium that meets its dorsal margin and distal end of the straight ischial shaft laterally expanded, among others. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that the new Iberian form is more closely related to its synchronic and sympatric contemporary European taxa Iguanodon bernissartensis and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis, known from Western Europe, than to other Early Cretaceous Iberian styracosternans (Delapparentia turolensis and Proa valdearinnoensis). The recognition of Morelladon beltrani gen. et sp. nov. indicates that the Iberian Peninsula was home to a highly diverse medium to large bodied styracosternan assemblage during the Early Cretaceous.
Disarticulated and incomplete remains from a new diminutive ornithopod are described. They come from the Cameros Basin in the north of Spain and were collected from the red clays of the Castrillo de la Reina Formation, ranging from Upper Barremian to Lower Aptian. The new ornithopod described here is slender and one of the smallest ever reported. An up-to-date phylogenetic analysis recovers this taxon as a basal iguanodontian. Its unique combination of characters makes it more derived than slender ornithopods like Hyphilophodon and Gasparinisaura, and bring very interesting insights into the basal iguanodontian phylogeny. Though possessing a minimum of three premaxillary teeth, this taxon also bears an extensor ilio-tibialis groove on the distal part of its femur. Moreover, its dentary and maxillary teeth are unique, remarkably similar to those regarded as having a “rhabdomorphan” affinity. This unknown taxon is suggested to be a stem taxon within Rhabdodontidae, a successful clade of basal iguanodonts from the Late Cretaceous of Europe. The Gondwanan ornithopods share the strongest affinities with this family, and we confirm Muttaburrasaurus as a sister taxon of the Rhabdodontidae within a newly defined clade, the Rhabdodontomorpha.
Quadrupedality evolved four independent times in dinosaurs; however, the constraints associated with these transitions in limb anatomy and function remain poorly understood, in particular the evolution of forearm posture and rotational ability (i.e., active pronation and supination). Results of previous qualitative studies are inconsistent, likely due to an inability to quantitatively assess the likelihood of their conclusions. We attempt to quantify antebrachial posture and mobility using the radius bone because its morphology is distinct between extant sprawled taxa with a limited active pronation ability and parasagittal taxa that have an enhanced ability to actively pronate the manus. We used a sliding semi-landmark, outline-based geometric morphometric approach of the proximal radial head and a measurement of the angle of curvature of the radius in a sample of 189 mammals, 49 dinosaurs, 35 squamates, 16 birds, and 5 crocodilians. Our results of radial head morphology showed that quadrupedal ceratopsians, bipedal non-hadrosaurid ornithopods, and theropods had limited pronation/supination ability, and sauropodomorphs have unique radial head morphology that likely allowed limited rotational ability. However, the curvature of the radius showed that no dinosaurian clade had the ability to cross the radius about the ulna, suggesting parallel antebrachial elements for all quadrupedal dinosaurs. We conclude that the bipedal origins of all quadrupedal dinosaur clades could have allowed for greater disparity in forelimb posture than previously appreciated, and future studies on dinosaur posture should not limit their classifications to the overly simplistic extant dichotomy.
Rhabdodontid ornithopod dinosaurs are characteristic elements of Late Cretaceous European vertebrate faunas and were previously collected from lower Campanian to Maastrichtian continental deposits. Phylogenetic analyses have placed rhabdodontids among basal ornithopods as the sister taxon to the clade consisting of Tenontosaurus, Dryosaurus, Camptosaurus, and Iguanodon. Recent studies considered Zalmoxes, the best known representative of the clade, to be significantly smaller than closely related ornithopods such as Tenontosaurus, Camptosaurus, or Rhabdodon, and concluded that it was probably an island dwarf that inhabited the Maastrichtian Haţeg Island.
Knowledge regarding the early evolution within the dinosaurian clade Ankylopollexia drastically increased over the past two decades, in part because of an increase in described taxa from the Early Cretaceous of North America. These advances motivated the recent completion of extensive preparation and conservation work on the holotype and only known specimen of Dakotadon lakotaensis, a basal ankylopollexian from the Lakota Formation of South Dakota. That specimen (SDSM 8656) preserves a partial skull, lower jaws, a single dorsal vertebra, and two caudal vertebrae. That new preparation work exposed several bones not included in the original description and revealed that other bones were previously misidentified. The presence of extensive deformation in areas of the skull is also noted that influenced inaccuracies in prior descriptions and reconstructions of this taxon. In addition to providing an extensive re-description of D. lakotaensis, this study reviews previously proposed diagnoses for this taxon, identifies two autapomorphies, and provides an extensive differential diagnosis. Dakotadon lakotaensis is distinct from the only other ankylopollexian taxon known from the Lakota Formation, Osmakasaurus depressus, in the presence of two prominent, anteroposteriorly oriented ridges on the ventral surfaces of the caudal vertebrae, the only overlapping material preserved between these taxa. The systematic relationships of D. lakotaensis are evaluated using both the parsimony and posterior probability optimality criteria, with both sets of analyses recovering D. lakotaensis as a non-hadrosauriform ankylopollexian that is more closely related to taxa from the Early Cretaceous (e.g., Iguanacolossus, Hippodraco, and Theiophytalia) than to more basally situated taxa from the Jurassic (e.g., Camptosaurus, Uteodon). This taxonomic work is supplemented by field work that relocated the type locality, confirming its provenance from unit L2 (lower Fuson Member equivalent) of the Lakota Formation. Those data, combined with recently revised ages for the members of the Lakota Formation based on charophyte and ostracod biostratigraphy, constrain the age of this taxon to the late Valanginian to early Barremian.
Bipedalism is a trait basal to, and widespread among, dinosaurs. It has been previously argued that bipedalism arose in the ancestors of dinosaurs for the function of freeing the forelimbs to serve as predatory weapons. However, this argument does not explain why bipedalism was retained among numerous herbivorous groups of dinosaurs. We argue that bipedalism arose in the dinosaur line for the purpose of enhanced cursoriality. Modern facultatively bipedal lizards offer an analog for the first stages in the evolution of dinosaurian bipedalism. Many extant lizards assume a bipedal stance while attempting to flee predators at maximum speed. Bipedalism, when combined with a caudofemoralis musculature, has cursorial advantages because the caudofemoralis provides a greater source of propulsion to the hindlimbs than is generally available to the forelimbs. That cursorial advantage explains the relative abundance of cursorial facultative bipeds and obligate bipeds among fossil diapsids and the relative scarcity of either among mammals. Having lost their caudofemoralis in the Permian, perhaps in the context of adapting to a fossorial lifestyle, the mammalian line has been disinclined towards bipedalism, but, having never lost the caudofemoralis of their ancestors, cursorial avemetatarsalians (bird-line archosaurs) were naturally inclined towards bipedalism.
A few dinosaurs are inferred to have undergone an ontogenetic shift from quadrupedal-to-bipedal posture, or vice versa, based on skeletal allometry. The basal ceratopsian Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis is considered to have been mainly bipedal as an adult. Here we infer a postural shift in this species based on a novel combination of limb measurements and histological data. The forelimb is strongly negatively allometric relative to the hindlimb, and patterns of vascular canal orientation provide evidence that growth of the hindlimb was particularly rapid during the middle part of ontogeny. Histology also makes it possible to determine the ontogenetic ages of individual specimens, showing that the forelimb-to-hindlimb ratio changed rapidly during the first or second year of life and thereafter decreased gradually. Occurrence of an ontogenetic shift from quadrupedality to bipedality was evidently widespread in dinosaurs, and may even represent the ancestral condition for the entire group.
Southwestern Henan Province in central China contains many down-faulted basins, including the Xixia Basin where the Upper Cretaceous continental sediments are well exposed. The Majiacun Formation is a major dinosaur-bearing stratigraphic unit that occurs in this basin.
The Las Cerradicas site (Tithonian-Berriasian), Teruel, Spain, preserves at least seventeen dinosaur trackways, some of them formerly attributed to quadrupedal ornithopods, sauropods and theropods. The exposure of new track evidence allows a more detailed interpretation of the controversial tridactyl trackways as well as the modes of locomotion and taxonomic affinities of the trackmakers.