A Middle Jurassic heterodontosaurid dinosaur from Patagonia and the evolution of heterodontosaurids
Heterodontosauridae is a morphologically divergent group of dinosaurs that has recently been interpreted as one of the most basal clades of Ornithischia. Heterodontosaurid remains were previously known from the Early Jurassic of southern Africa, but recent discoveries and studies have significantly increased the geographical and temporal range for this clade. Here, we report a new ornithischian dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic Cañadón Asfalto Formation in central Patagonia, Argentina. This new taxon, Manidens condorensis gen. et sp. nov., includes well-preserved craniomandibular and postcranial remains and represents the only diagnostic ornithischian specimen yet discovered in the Jurassic of South America so far. Derived features of its anatomy indicate that Manidens belongs to Heterodontosauridae, as the sister taxon of Heterodontosaurus and other South African heterodontosaurids. The presence of posterior dentary teeth with high crowns but lacking extensive wear facets in Manidens suggests that this form represents an intermediate stage in the development of the remarkable adaptations to herbivory described for Heterodontosaurus. The dentition of Manidens condorensis also has autapomorphies, such as asymmetrically arranged denticles in posterior teeth and a mesially projected denticle in the posteriormost teeth. At an estimated total length of 60–75 cm, Manidens furthermore confirms the small size of basal heterodontosaurids.