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Concept: Liaoning


Two skeletons of the large compsognathid Sinocalliopteryx gigas include intact abdominal contents. Both specimens come from the Jianshangou Beds of the lower Yixian Formation (Neocomian), Liaoning, China. The holotype of S. gigas preserves a partial dromaeosaurid leg in the abdominal cavity, here attributed to Sinornithosaurus. A second, newly-discovered specimen preserves the remains of at least two individuals of the primitive avialan, Confuciusornis sanctus, in addition to acid-etched bones from a possible ornithischian. Although it cannot be stated whether such prey items were scavenged or actively hunted, the presence of two Confuciusornis in a grossly similar state of digestion suggests they were consumed in rapid succession. Given the lack of clear arboreal adaptations in Sinocalliopteryx, we suggest it may have been an adept stealth hunter.

Concepts: Cretaceous, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Feathered dinosaurs, Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae, Compsognathidae, Jiufotang Formation


A second nearly complete, articulated specimen of the basal troodontid Mei long (DNHM D2154) is reported from the Early Cretaceous (Hauterivian-Valanginian) lower Yixian Formation, Liaoning Province, China. New diagnostic features of Mei long are identified, including: a uniquely shaped maxilla, low with small, low maxillary fenestra; sacrum with an extremely wide caudal portion and elongate 4(th) and 5(th) sacral processes; and a large distal articular surface on the tibiotarsus which continues caudally on the tibia. A phylogenetic analysis including new data from the second specimen recovered Mei as a basal troodontid, in keeping with previous analyses. Although the skeleton exhibits several juvenile-like features including free cervical ribs, unfused frontals and nasals, and a short snouted skull, other attributes, full fusion of all neurocentral synostoses and the sacrum, and dense exteriors to cortical bone, suggest a small, mature individual. Microscopic examination of tibia and fibula histology confirms maturity and suggests an individual greater than two years old with slowed growth. Despite being one of the smallest dinosaurs, Mei long exhibits multi-year growth and cortical bone consisting largely of fibro-lamellar tissue marked by lines of arrested growth as in much larger and more basal theropods. This Mei long specimen lies in a similar but mirrored sleeping position to that of the holotype, strengthening the hypothesis that both specimens were preserved in a stereotypical life position. Like many Liaoning specimens, the new specimen also lacks extensive taphonomic and stratigraphic data, making further behavioral inference problematic.

Concepts: Bone, Biology, Cretaceous, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Mei, Yixian Formation, Troodontidae


Psittacosaurus is one of the most abundant and speciose genera in the Dinosauria, with fifteen named species. The genus is geographically and temporally widespread with large sample sizes of several of the nominal species allowing detailed analysis of intra- and interspecific variation. We present a reanalysis of three separate, coeval species within the Psittacosauridae; P. lujiatunensis, P. major, and Hongshanosaurus houi from the Lujiatun beds of the Yixian Formation, northeastern China, using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics on a sample set of thirty skulls in combination with a reevaluation of the proposed character states for each species. Using these complementary methods, we show that individual and taphonomic variation are the joint causes of a large range of variation among the skulls when they are plotted in a morphospace. Our results demonstrate that there is only one species of Psittacosaurus within the Lujiatun beds and that the three nominal species represent different taphomorphotypes of P. lujiatunensis. The wide range of geometric morphometric variation in a single species of Psittacosaurus implies that the range of variation found in other dinosaurian groups may also be related to taphonomic distortion rather than interspecific variation. As the morphospace is driven primarily by variation resulting from taphonomic distortion, this study demonstrates that the geometric morphometric approach can only be used with great caution to delineate interspecific variation in Psittacosaurus and likely other dinosaur groups without a complementary evaluation of character states. This study presents the first application of 3D geometric morphometrics to the dinosaurian morphospace and the first attempt to quantify taphonomic variation in dinosaur skulls.

Concepts: Liaoning, Dinosaur, Morphometrics, Psittacosaurus, Yixian Formation, Ceratopsia, Psittacosauridae, Hongshanosaurus


Psittacosaurus is one of the most abundant dinosaurs known, which allows for extensive study of its growth and form. Previous studies have evaluated growth trajectories of Psittacosaurus using bone histology. However, we present the first study of Psittacosaurus comparative juvenile histology and describe the histology of Psittacosaurus within its first year of life based on multiple sections taken from an exquisite monospecific assemblage of juveniles from the Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China. Specimens studied had femur lengths ranging from 30-36 mm. The five juveniles examined all have similar histologic patterns in the midshaft and epiphyseal regions showing that there is limited plasticity in bone development in juvenile Psittacosaurus and that all of the specimens in the assemblage were likely the same age. The microstructure patterns are compatible with the hypothesis that Psittacosaurus was precocial and that these juveniles were neonates. Based on comparisons with other juvenile ornithischians, juvenile Psittacosaurus had a growth rate similar to Orodromeus, slower than that of Maiasaura, Dysalotosaurus, or hadrosaurs consistent with small body size. Our results support previous studies that demonstrated that the orientation of vascular canals is likely not solely reflective of growth rate, but is also affected by underlying biomechanical, structural processes. The number of studies done on theropod and sauropodomorph histology dwarfs those of ornithischians. More studies of ornithischian histology are necessary in order to better establish phylogenetic trends in microstructure and to learn more about growth in this important clade. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Histology, Bird, Cultural studies, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Yixian Formation, Ornithischia, Ceratopsia


We describe an exquisitely preserved new avian fossil (BMNHC-PH-919) from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of eastern Inner Mongolia, China. Although morphologically similar to Cathayornithidae and other small-sized enantiornithines from China’s Jehol Biota, many morphological features indicate that it represents a new species, here named Junornis houi. The new fossil displays most of its plumage including a pair of elongated, rachis-dominated tail feathers similarly present in a variety of other enantiornithines. BMNHC-PH-919 represents the first record of a Jehol enantiornithine from Inner Mongolia, thus extending the known distribution of these birds into the eastern portion of this region. Furthermore, its well-preserved skeleton and wing outline provide insight into the aerodynamic performance of enantiornithines, suggesting that these birds had evolved bounding flight-a flight mode common to passeriforms and other small living birds-as early as 125 million years ago.

Concepts: Bird, People's Republic of China, Aerodynamics, Qing Dynasty, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Mongolia


The partial skeleton of a leptoceratopsid dinosaur, Ischioceratops zhuchengensis gen. et sp. nov., was excavated from the bone-beds of the Upper Cretaceous Wangshi Group of Zhucheng, Shandong Province, China. This fossil represents the second leptoceratopsid dinosaur specimen recovered from the Kugou locality, a highly productive site in Zhucheng. The ischium of the new taxon is morphologically unique among known Dinosauria, flaring gradually to form an obturator process in its middle portion and resembling the shaft of a recurve bow. An elliptical fenestra perforates the obturator process, and the distal end of the shaft forms an axehead-shaped expansion. The discovery of Ischioceratops increases the known taxonomic diversity and morphological disparity of the Leptoceratopsidae.

Concepts: Cretaceous, Shandong, Paleontology, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Ornithischia, Late Cretaceous, Ceratopsia


Genuine fossils with exquisitely preserved plumage from the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous of northeastern China have recently revealed that bird-like theropod dinosaurs had long pennaceous feathers along their hindlimbs and may have used their four wings to glide or fly. Thus, it has been postulated that early bird flight might initially have involved four wings (Xu et al. Nature 421:335-340, 2003; Hu et al. Nature 461:640-643, 2009; Han et al. Nat Commun 5:4382, 2014). Here, we describe Serikornis sungei gen. et sp. nov., a new feathered theropod from the Tiaojishan Fm (Late Jurassic) of Liaoning Province, China. Its skeletal morphology suggests a ground-dwelling ecology with no flying adaptations. Our phylogenetic analysis places Serikornis, together with other Late Jurassic paravians from China, as a basal paravians, outside the Eumaniraptora clade. The tail of Serikornis is covered proximally by filaments and distally by slender rectrices. Thin symmetrical remiges lacking barbules are attached along its forelimbs and elongate hindlimb feathers extend up to its toes, suggesting that hindlimb remiges evolved in ground-dwelling maniraptorans before being co-opted to an arboreal lifestyle or flight.

Concepts: Bird, Cretaceous, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Archaeopteryx, Feather, Troodontidae, Maniraptora


Therizinosauria are an unusual group of theropod dinosaurs, found mostly in the Cretaceous deposits in Mongolia, China and western USA. The basal forms of this group are represented by incomplete or disarticulated material. Here, we report a nearly complete, articulated skeleton of a new basal therizinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Jianchang County, western part of Liaoning Province, which sheds light on our understanding of anatomy of basal therizinosaurs. This new dinosaur shows some typical therizinosaur features, such as neural spines of the anterior caudal vertebrae that possess anterior and posterior alae, a rectangular buttress on the ventrolateral side of the proximal end of metacarpal I, and appressed metatarsal shafts. Our phylogenetic analysis suggests that it is a basal therizinosaur (sister taxon to Therizinosauroidea) because it bears many basal therizinosaur characters in the dentition, pelvis and hind limbs. The new therizinosaur described here has unique tooth and jaw characters such as the offsetting of the tooth row by a shelf and dentary teeth with labially concave and lingually convex dentary teeth, similar to ornithopods and ceratopsians.

Concepts: Cretaceous, Liaoning, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Yixian Formation, Maniraptora, Therizinosaur, Sinosauropteryx


The West Liao River valley in Northeast China is an ecologically diverse region, populated in prehistory by human populations with a wide range of cultures and modes of subsistence. To help understand the human evolutionary history of this region, we performed Y chromosome analyses on ancient human remains from archaeological sites ranging in age from 6500 to 2700 BP.

Concepts: Human, Anthropology, Paleontology, Human evolution, Archaeology, Liaoning, Prehistory, United States Census Bureau


We report on a case of human infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus in Jilin Province in northeastern China. This case was associated with a poultry farm rather than a live bird market, which may point to a new focus for public health surveillance and interventions in this evolving outbreak.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Evolution, Virus, Avian influenza, Jilin, Northeast China, Liaoning, Changchun