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A Middle Jurassic heterodontosaurid dinosaur from Patagonia and the evolution of heterodontosaurids

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Guillermo Rougier for collecting the specimen described here. Fieldwork was only possible with the friendly support of the Farias family, the Subsecretaría de Cultura of the Chubut province and the School number 31 at Cerro Cóndor. Leandro Canessa carried out the very delicate preparation of the type specimen and Pablo Puerta and Leandro Canessa prepared the isolated teeth. Fieldwork was supported by the project “Paleontological Exploration of Patagonia” (Fundación Antorchas and University of Louisville) and NSF DEB-0946430 for the study of Mesozoic mammals from South America (to Guillermo Rougier). This research was conducted with the support of ANPCYT (grant PICT 1756) and international collaboration grant CONICET-Chinese Academy of Sciences to DP, and DFG (grant RA 1012/9-1) to OR. Access to SEM lab was possible thanks to ALUAR Aluminio Argentino, and the technical help of Mr. Jaime Groizard is deeply appreciated. R. Butler is deeply thanked for providing constructive comments and discussion about this specimen. Line drawings of 2 have been conducted by Mr. Jorge Gonzalez. Ms. Sheena Kaal is thanked for access to comparative specimens of Heterodontosaurus at the Iziko-South African Museum to DP. Mr. Zheng Xiao-Ting is thanked for access to comparative specimens of Tianyulong at the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature to DP. Ms. Zhang Xiaomei is also thanked for her help, and Dr. Xu Xing is thanked for providing access to other relevant comparative material. Critical comments by Richard Butler and four anonymous reviewers have considerably helped to improve the manuscript.

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Pol, D., Rauhut, O.W.M. & Becerra, M. A Middle Jurassic heterodontosaurid dinosaur from Patagonia and the evolution of heterodontosaurids. Naturwissenschaften 98, 369 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-011-0780-5

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Keywords

  • Ornithschia
  • Gondwana
  • Jurassic
  • Cañadón Asfalto Formation
  • Heterodontosauridae