The Dinosaur Institute

Los Angeles, CA, United States

The Dinosaur Institute

Los Angeles, CA, United States
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Lindgren J.,Lund University | Caldwell M.W.,University of Alberta | Konishi T.,University of Alberta | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Mosasaurs (family Mosasauridae) are a diverse group of secondarily aquatic lizards that radiated into marine environments during the Late Cretaceous (98-65 million years ago). For the most part, they have been considered to be simple anguilliform swimmers - i.e., their propulsive force was generated by means of lateral undulations incorporating the greater part of the body - with unremarkable, dorsoventrally narrow tails and long, lizard-like bodies. Convergence with the specialized fusiform body shape and inferred carangiform locomotory style (in which only a portion of the posterior body participates in the thrust-producing flexure) of ichthyosaurs and metriorhynchid crocodyliform reptiles, along with cetaceans, has so far only been recognized in Plotosaurus, the most highly derived member of the Mosasauridae. Here we report on an exceptionally complete specimen (LACM 128319) of the moderately derived genus Platecarpus that preserves soft tissues and anatomical details (e.g., large portions of integument, a partial body outline, putative skin color markings, a downturned tail, branching bronchial tubes, and probable visceral traces) to an extent that has never been seen previously in any mosasaur. Our study demonstrates that a streamlined body plan and crescent-shaped caudal fin were already well established in Platecarpus, a taxon that preceded Plotosaurus by 20 million years. These new data expand our understanding of convergent evolution among marine reptiles, and provide insights into their evolution's tempo and mode. © 2010 Lindgren et al.

Ji S.-A.,Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences | Atterholt J.,University of Pennsylvania | O'Connor J.K.,The Dinosaur Institute | Lamanna M.C.,Section of Vertebrate Paleontology | And 4 more authors.
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2011

In recent years, the Lower Cretaceous (Aptian) Xiagou Formation has yielded approximately 100 avian partial skeletons, many with soft-tissue traces, from sites in the Changma Basin of Gansu Province, north-western China. The most abundant taxon amongst these is the ornithuromorph Gansus yumenensis, but enantiornithines have also been identified in the sample. Here we describe two incomplete, semi-articulated appendicular skeletons, the first consisting of a partial left pelvic girdle and complete pelvic limb, and the second comprised of a nearly complete right pelvic limb. Both specimens bear characteristics diagnostic of Enantiornithes, and are referred to a new taxon, Qiliania graffinigen. et sp. nov. The exceptional, three-dimensional preservation of these specimens (compared to the crushed, nearly two-dimensional condition of most other Early Cretaceous avian fossils) reveals new information regarding enantiornithine anatomy, evolution, and diversity. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London.

Prieto-Marquez A.,Bayerische Staatssammlung fur Palaontologie und Geologie | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute | Joshi S.H.,University of California at Los Angeles
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The taxonomy, osteology, phylogenetic position, and historical biogeography of the lambeosaurine hadrosaurid Magnapaulia laticaudus (new combination) are revised. The diagnosis of this species is amended on the basis on two autapomorphies (i.e., longest haemal arches of proximal caudal vertebrae being at least four times longer than the height of their respective centra; base of prezygapophyses in caudal vertebrae merging to form a bowl-shaped surface) and a unique combination of characters (i.e., downturned cranioventral process of the maxilla; tear-shaped external naris with length/width ratio between 1.85 and 2.85; neural spines of dorsal, sacral, and proximal caudal vertebrae being at least four times the height of their respective centra). A maximum parsimony analysis supports a sister taxon relationship between M. laticaudus and Velafrons coahuilensis. Both taxa constitute a clade of southern North American lambeosaurines, which forms a sister relationship with the diverse clade of helmet-crested lambeosaurines from northern North America that includes well-known genera like Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurus, and Hypacrosaurus. According to the results of a Dispersal-Vicariance analysis, southern North American lambeosaurines split from the northern forms via vicariance from a common ancestor that lived in both the northern and southern regions of the continent. © 2012 Prieto-Márquez et al.

Marugan-Lobon J.,Unidad University | Marugan-Lobon J.,The Dinosaur Institute | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute | Farke A.A.,Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology
PeerJ | Year: 2013

The vestibular system of the inner ear houses three semicircular canals-oriented on three nearly-orthogonal planes-that respond to angular acceleration stimuli. In recent years, the orientation of the lateral semicircular canal (LSC) has been regularly used to determine skull orientations for comparative purposes in studies of non-avian dinosaurs. Such orientations have been inferred based on fixing the LSC to a common set of coordinates (parallel to the Earth's horizon), given that the orientation to gravity of this sensory systemis assumed constant among taxa. Under this assumption, the LSC is used as a baseline (a reference system) both to estimate how the animals held their heads and to describe craniofacial variation among dinosaurs. However, the available data in living birds (extant saurischian dinosaurs) suggests that the orientation of the LSC in non-avian saurischian dinosaurs could have been very variable and taxon-specific. If such were the case, using the LSC as a comparative reference systemwould cause inappropriate visual perceptions of craniofacial organization, leading to significant descriptive inconsistencies among taxa. Here, we used Procrustes methods (GeometricMorphometrics), a suite of analytical tools that compares morphology on the basis of shared landmark homology, to show that the variability of LSC relative to skull landmarks is large (ca. 50°) and likely unpredictable, thus making it an inconsistent reference system for comparing and describing the skulls of saurischian (sauropodomorph and theropod) dinosaurs. In light of our results, the lateral semicircular canal is an inconsistent baseline for comparative studies of craniofacial morphology in dinosaurs. © 2013 Panagopoulos et al.

Bell A.K.,The Dinosaur Institute | Bell A.K.,University of Southern California | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute | Erickson G.M.,Florida State University | And 4 more authors.
Cretaceous Research | Year: 2010

Avian fossils from the Upper Cretaceous of Mongolia provide significant scientific insight into the evolution of early birds, primarily due to the scarcity of continental interiors with a well-documented avifauna in the Cretaceous record. This paper describes in detail the anatomy and histology of a new taxon of early ornithuromorph bird, Hollanda luceria, from the Barun Goyot Formation at Khermeen Tsav in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The new taxon is represented exclusively by hindlimb elements, and is characterized by having elongated hindlimbs with an extremely reduced metatarsal IV and an unusual tibiotarsal-femoral articulation centered on a highly peaked lateral articular facet of the tibiotarsus. Cladistic and ecospace analyses were also carried out in order to infer evolutionary relationships and ecology of this primitive bird. These analyses indicate that the new taxon is a previously undescribed lineage of basal ornithuromorph and an outgroup of Ornithurae (sensu Chiappe, 2002), which may have had a cursorial lifestyle similar to that of the modern roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bertelli S.,Ornithologie | Lindow B.E.K.,Geological Museum | Lindow B.E.K.,University College Dublin | Dyke G.J.,University College Dublin | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute
Palaeontology | Year: 2010

We describe a new, exceptionally well-preserved fossil bird recovered from marine deposits of the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Morsoravis sedilis gen. et sp. nov. is known by a single specimen that consists of a three-dimensional skull, vertebral column, ribs, pelvis, and left hindlimb and associated parts of the right hindlimb. Comparisons based on overall morphology and particularly characters of the skull, vertebrae and pelvis indicate that the new specimen is morphologically similar to charadriiform birds (the shorebirds and relatives). This similarity is also expressed by a phylogenetic analysis of higher neornithine (modern birds) taxa, which supports a close relationship between the new fossil and modern charadriiforms. The morphology of the hindlimbs, in particular, shows that the new fossil corresponds to a new taxon that is distinguishable from modern charadriiform clades. One interesting aspect of its morphology is the presence of hindlimb specializations that are most commonly found among perching birds - these suggest that ecologically the new Danish fossil bird may have differed from the wading habits typical of most charadriiforms. © The Palaeontological Association.

Butler R.J.,Bayerische Staatssammlung fur Palaontologie und Geologie | Butler R.J.,Natural History Museum in London | Galton P.M.,University of Bridgeport | Porro L.B.,University of Chicago | And 3 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2010

The extremes of dinosaur body size have long fascinated scientists. The smallest (< 1 m length) known dinosaurs are carnivorous saurischian theropods, and similarly diminutive herbivorous or omnivorous ornithischians (the other major group of dinosaurs) are unknown. We report a new ornithischian dinosaur, Fruitadens haagarorum, from the Late Jurassic of western North America that rivals the smallest theropods in size. The largest specimens of Fruitadens represent young adults in their fifth year of development and are estimated at just 65-75 cm in total body length and 0.5-0.75 kg body mass. They are thus the smallest known ornithischians. Fruitadens is a late-surviving member of the basal dinosaur clade Heterodontosauridae, and is the first member of this clade to be described from North America. The craniodental anatomy and diminutive body size of Fruitadens suggest that this taxon was an ecological generalist with an omnivorous diet, thus providing new insights into morphological and palaeoecological diversity within Dinosauria. Late-surviving (Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous) heterodontosaurids are smaller and less ecologically specialized than Early (Late Triassic and Early Jurassic) heterodontosaurids, and this ecological generalization may account in part for the remarkable 100-million-year-long longevity of the clade. © 2009 The Royal Society.

Butler R.J.,Bayerische Staatssammlung fur Palaontologie und Geologie | Butler R.J.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich | Porro L.B.,University of Chicago | Galton P.M.,University of Bridgeport | Chiappe L.M.,The Dinosaur Institute
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: Heterodontosaurids are an important but enigmatic and poorly understood early radiation of ornithischian dinosaurs. The late-surviving heterodontosaurid Fruitadens haagarorum from the Late Jurassic (early Tithonian) Morrison Formation of the western USA is represented by remains of several small (&1 metre total body length, &1 kg body mass) individuals that include well-preserved but incomplete cranial and postcranial material. Fruitadens is hypothesized to represent one of the smallest known ornithischian dinosaurs. Methodology/Principal Findings: We describe the cranial and postcranial anatomy of Fruitadens in detail, providing comparisons to all other known heterodontosaurid taxa. High resolution micro-CT data provides new insights into tooth replacement and the internal anatomy of the tooth-bearing bones. Moreover, we provide a preliminary functional analysis of the skull of late-surviving heterodontosaurids, discuss the implications of Fruitadens for current understanding of heterodontosaurid monophyly, and briefly review the evolution and biogeography of heterodontosaurids. Conclusions/Significance: The validity of Fruitadens is supported by multiple unique characters of the dentition and hindlimb as well as a distinct character combination. Fruitadens shares highly distinctive appendicular characters with other heterodontosaurids, strengthening monophyly of the clade on the basis of the postcranium. Mandibular morphology and muscle moment arms suggest that the jaws of late-surviving heterodontosaurids, including Fruitadens, were adapted for rapid biting at large gape angles, contrasting with the jaws of the stratigraphically older Heterodontosaurus, which were better suited for strong jaw adduction at small gapes. The lack of wear facets and plesiomorphic dentition suggest that Fruitadens used orthal jaw movements and employed simple puncture-crushing to process food. In combination with its small body size, these results suggest that Fruitadens was an ecological generalist, consuming select plant material and possibly insects or other invertebrates. © 2012 Butler et al.

The Smoky Hill Member of the Niobrara Chalk in Kansas (USA) has yielded the remains of numerous members of the Hesperornithiformes, toothed diving birds from the late Early to Late Cretaceous. This study presents a new taxon of hesperornithiform from the Smoky Hill Member, Fumicollis hoffmani, the holotype of which is among the more complete hesperornithiform skeletons. Fumicollis has a unique combination of primitive (e.g. proximal and distal ends of femur not expanded, elongate pre-acetabular ilium, small and pyramidal patella) and derived (e.g. dorsal ridge on metatarsal IV, plantarly-projected curve in the distal shaft of phalanx III:1) hesperornithiform characters, suggesting it was more specialized than small hesperornithiforms like Baptornis advenus but not as highly derived as the larger Hesperornis regalis. The identification of Fumicollis highlights once again the significant diversity of hesperornithiforms that existed in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway. This diversity points to the existence of a complex ecosystem, perhaps with a high degree of niche partitioning, as indicated by the varying degrees of diving specializations among these birds.

PubMed | University of Utah, State University of New York at Stony Brook, The Dinosaur Institute and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Type: | Journal: PeerJ | Year: 2016

Rauisuchids are large (2-6 m in length), carnivorous, and quadrupedal pseudosuchian archosaurs closely related to crocodylomorphs. Though geographically widespread, fossils of this clade are relatively rare in Late Triassic assemblages. The middle Norian (212 Ma) Hayden Quarry of northern New Mexico, USA, in the Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation, has yielded isolated postcranial elements and associated skull elements of a new species of rauisuchid. Vivaron haydeni gen. et. sp. nov. is diagnosed by the presence of two posteriorly directed prongs at the posterior end of the maxilla for articulation with the jugal. The holotype maxilla and referred elements are similar to those of the rauisuchid Postosuchus kirkpatricki from the southwestern United States, but V. haydeni shares several maxillary apomorphies (e.g., a distinct dropoff to the antorbital fossa that is not a ridge, a straight ventral margin, and a well defined dental groove) with the rauisuchid Teratosaurus suevicus from the Norian of Germany. Despite their geographic separation, this morphological evidence implies a close phylogenetic relationship between V. haydeni and T. suevicus. The morphology preserved in the new Hayden Quarry rauisuchid V. haydeni supports previously proposed and new synapomorphies for nodes within Rauisuchidae. The discovery of Vivaron haydeni reveals an increased range of morphological disparity for rauisuchids from the low-paleolatitude Chinle Formation and a clear biogeographic connection with high paleolatitude Pangea.

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