The position of the claws in Noasauridae (Dinosauria: Abelisauroidea) and its implications for abelisauroid manus evolution

Abstract

In this note we reassess the position of putative pedal phalanges of some South American noasaurid theropods (Abelisauroidea). Noasaurids were considered as to be distinctive abelisauroids with a peculiar “sickle claw” on the second toe of the foot, convergently developed with that of deinonychosaurians. Among noasaurids, the Argentinean species Noasaurus leali (latest Cretaceous) and Ligabueino andesi (Early Cretaceous) are known from incomplete specimens, including dissarticulated non-ungueal phalanges, and, in N. leali, a claw. A detailed overview of these elements indicates that the supposed raptorial claw of the second pedal digit of N. leali actually belongs to the first or second finger of the manus, and the putative pedal non-ungual phalanges of both genera also pertain to the manus. Thus, the new interpretations of noasaurid pedal morphology blur the distinctions between Noasauridae and Velocisauridae proposed by previous authors. Finally, we suggest, on the basis of phalangeal and metacarpal morphology, that abelisaurids probably lost their manual claws by means of the loss of function of the HOXA11 and HOXD11 genes. Thus Noasauridae differs from Abelisauridae in retaining plesiomorphic long forelimbs with well developed claws, as occurs plesiomorphically in most basal theropods (e.g., Coelophysis).

Kurzfassung

In der vorliegenden Studie wird eine Neubewertung der mutmaßlichen Position der Zehenglieder südamerikanischer noasaurider Theropoden (Abelisauroidea) präsentiert. Noasauride werden als unverwechselbare Abelisauroide mit einer besonderen “Sichelkralle” am zweiten Zeh des Fußes, die konvergent zu der der Deinonychosaurier entstand ist, betrachtet. Die beiden argentinischen Arten Noasaurus leali (oberste Kreide) und Ligabueino andesi (Unterkreide), die beide zu den Noasauriden gehören, sind nur durch unvollständigen Exemplaren einschließlich nicht-ungualer Zehenglieder und einer Kralle von N. leali belegt. Eine ausführliche Untersuchung dieser Elemente deutet darauf hin, dass die angeblich räuberische Kralle der zweiten Zehe von N. leali tatsächlich zum ersten oder zweiten Finger der Hand gehört. Ebenso gehören auch die nicht-ungualen Zehenglieder beider Taxa zur Hand. Die unterschiedliche Fußmorphologie, wie sie von verschiedenen Autoren vorgeschlagen wurde, beeinträchtigt die Unterscheidung zwischen Noasauriden und Velocisauriden. Wir vermuten auf Grund der Phalangen- und Metacarpaliamorphologie, dass der Verlust der Funktion der HOXA11- und HOXD11-Gene möglicherweise für das Fehlen von Fingerkrallen bei den Abelisauriden verantwortlich ist. Somit unterscheiden sich die Noasauriden von den Abelisauriden durch den Besitz der plesiomorphen langen Vorderextremitäten mit gut-entwickelten Krallen, wie es auch bei basalen Theropoden (z.B. Coelophysis) der Fall ist.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Abbreviations

FMNH PR:

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA

MACN-PV-N:

Colección de Paleontología de Vertebrados, Provincia de Neuquén, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, Buenos Aires, Argentina

PVL:

Colección de Paleontología de Vertebrados, Instituto Miguel Lillo, Tucumán, Argentina

References

  1. Agnolin, F.L., F.E. Novas, and S. Apesteguía. 2003. Velocisaurids in South America and Madagascar. Ameghiniana 40: 77R.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Agnolin, F.L., S. Apesteguía, and P. Chiarelli. 2004. The end of a myth: The mysterious ungual claw of Noasaurus leali. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24: 33A.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Apesteguía, S. 2002. Successional structure in continental tetrapod faunas from Argentina along the Cretaceous. Boletim do 6º Simpósio sobre o Cretáceo do Brasil—2º Simposio sobre el Cretácico de América del Sur, Abstracts: 135–141.

  4. Bonaparte, J.F. 1986. History of the terrestrial Cretaceous vertebrates of Gondwana. Actas 4th Congreso Argentino de Paleontología y Bioestratigrafía 4: 63–95.

  5. Bonaparte, J.F. 1991a. The Gondwanian theropod families Abelisauridae and Noasauridae. Historical Biology 5: 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bonaparte, J.F. 1991b. Los vertebrados fósiles de la Formación Río Colorado, de la ciudad de Neuquén y cercanías, Cretácico superior, Argentina. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia 4: 15–123.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bonaparte, J.F. 1996. Cretaceous tetrapods of Argentina. Münchner Geowissenschaftliche Abhandlungen. Reihe A, Geologie und Paläontologie 30: 73–130.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bonaparte, J.F., F.E. Novas, and R.A. Coria. 1990. Carnotaurus sastrei Bonaparte, the horned, lightly built carnosaur from the middle Cretaceous of Patagonia. Contributions in Science of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County 416: 1–42.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bonaparte, J.F., and J.E. Powell. 1980. A continental assemblage of tetrapods from the Upper Cretaceous beds of El Brete, northwestern Argentina (Sauropoda-Coelurosauria-Carnosauria-Aves). Mémoires de la Société Géologique de France 139: 19–28.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Burch, S., and M. Carrano. 2008. Abelisaurid forelimb evolution: New evidence from Majungasaurus crenatissimus (Abelisauridae: Theropoda) from the late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28: 58A.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Canale, J.I., C.A. Scanferla, F.L. Agnolin, and F.E. Novas. 2009. New carnivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of NW Patagonia and the evolution of abelisaurid theropods. Naturwissenschaften 96: 409–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Carrano, M.T., and S.D. Sampson. 2008. The phylogeny of Ceratosauria (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 6: 183–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Carrano, M.T., S.D. Sampson, and C.A. Forster. 2002. The osteology of Masiakasaurus knopfleri, a small abelisauroid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22: 510–534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Carrano, M.T., S.D. Sampson, and M.A. Loewen. 2004. New discoveries of Masiakasarus knopfleri and the morphology of the Noasauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24: 44A.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Carrano, M.T. 2007. The appendicular skeleton of Majungasaurus crenatissimus (Theropoda: Abelisauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Memoir 8: 163–179.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Charig, A.J., and A.C. Milner. 1997. Baryonyx walkeri, a fish eating dinosaur from the Wealden of Surrey. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Geology Series 53: 11–70.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Coria, R.A., L.M. Chiappe, and L. Dingus. 2002. A new close relative of Carnotaurus satrei Bonaparte 1985 (Theropoda: Abelisauridae) from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22: 460–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Coria, R.A., and L. Salgado. 1998. A basal Abelisauria, Novas 1992 (Theropoda-Ceratosauria) from the Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina. GAIA 15: 89–102.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Currie, P.J., and X. Zhao. 1993. A new carnosaur (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Jurassic of Xinjiang, People’s Republic of China. Journal of Canadian Earth Sciences 30: 2037–2081.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Gauthier, J. 1986. Saurischian monophyly and the origin of birds. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences 1: 1–47.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Gilmore, C.W. 1920. Osteology of the carnivorous Dinosauria in the United States National Museum, with special reference to the genera Antrodemus (Allosaurus) and Ceratosaurus. Bulletin United States National Museum 110: 1–154.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Greer, A.E. 1991. Limb reduction in squamates: Identification of the lineages and discussion of the trends. Journal of Herpetology 25: 166–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Janensch, W. 1920. Über Elaphrosaurus bambergi und die megalosaurier aus den Tendaguru-Schichten Deutsch-Ostafrikas. Sitzunberichte Gesselschaft Natursforschende Freunde 1920: 225–235.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Madsen, J.H. 1976. Allosaurus fragilis: A revised osteology. Bulletin Utah Geological and Mineralogical Survey 109: 1–163.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Madsen, J.H., and S.P. Welles. 2000. Ceratosaurus (Dinosauria. Theropoda), a revised osteology. Utah Geological Survey Miscellaneous Publication 2: 1–80.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Maganuco, S., A. Cau, and G. Pasini. 2008. New information on the abelisaurid pedal elements from the Late Cretaceous of NW Madagascar (Mahajanga Basin). Atti della Societa Italiana di Scienze Naturalie del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano 149: 239–252.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Novas, F.E. 1991. Relaciones filogeneticas de los dinosaurios teropodos ceratosaurios. Ameghiniana 28: 401–414.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Novas, F.E. 1992. Phylogenetic relationships of the basal dinosaurs, the Herrerasauridae. Palaeontology 35: 51–62.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Novas, F.E. 1997. South American dinosaurs. In Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, ed. P.J. Currie, and K. Padian, 678–689. San Diego: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Novas, F.E., and S. Bandyopadhyay. 2001. Abelisaurid pedal unguals from the Late Cretaceous of India. Asociación Paleontológica Argentina, Publicación Especial 7: 145–149.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Novas, F.E., F.L. Agnolin, and S. Bandyopadhyay. 2004. Cretaceous theropods from India: A review of specimens described by Huene and Matley (1933). Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales 6: 67–103.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Novas, F.E., S. de Valais, P. Vickers Rich, and T. Rich. 2005a. A large theropod from Patagonia, Argentina, and the evolution of carcharodontosaurids. Naturwissenchaften 92: 226–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Novas, F.E., F. Dalla Vecchia, and D.F. Pais. 2005b. Theropod pedal unguals from the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of Morocco, Africa. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales 7: 167–175.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Ostrom, J.H. 1969. Osteology of Deinonychus antirrhopus, an unusual theropod from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 30: 1–165.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Palci, A., and M.W. Caldwell. 2007. Vestigial forelimbs and axial elongation in a 95 million year old non-snake squamate. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27: 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Rauhut, O.W.M., and C. Werner. 1995. First record of the family Dromaeosauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda) in the Cretaceous of Gondwana (Wadi Milk Formation, northern Sudan). Paläontologische Zeitschrift 69: 475–489.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Rauhut, O.W.M. 2003. The interrelationships and evolution of basal theropod dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology 69: 1–214.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Rowe, T., and J. Gauthier. 1990. Ceratosauria. In The Dinosauria, ed. D.B. Weishampel, P. Dodson, and H. Osmólska, 151–168. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Russell, D.A., and Z.M. Dong. 1993. A nearly complete skeleton of a new troodontid dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of the Ordos Basin, Inner Mongolia, People’s Republic of China. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 30: 2163–2173.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Salgado, L. 2003. Los saurópodos de Patagonia: Sistemática, Evolución y Paleobiogeografía. In: Colectivo Arqueológico-Paleontológico de Salas, C.A.S. (Ed.):. Actas de las II Jornadas Internacionales Sobre Paleontología de Dinosaurios y su Entorno. Salas de los Infates (Burgos, España). pp 139–168.

  41. Salgado, L., R.A. Coria, and J.O. Calvo. 1997. Evolution of titanosaurid sauropods. I: Phylogenetic analysis based on the postcranial evidence. Ameghiniana 34: 3–32.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Sampson, S.D., M.T. Carrano, and C.A. Forster. 2001. A bizarre new predatory dinosaur from Madagascar. Nature 409: 504–506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Sereno, P.C. 1993. The pectoral girdle and forelimb of the basal theropod Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13: 425–450.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Sereno, P.C., D.B. Dutheil, M. Iarochene, H.C.E. Larsson, G.H. Lyon, P.W. Mgwene, C.A. Sidor, D.J. Varrichio, G.P. Wilson, and J.A. Wilson. 1996. Predatory dinosaurs from the Sahara and Late Cretaceous faunal differentiation. Science 272: 986–991.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Sereno, P.C., J.A. Wilson, and J.L. Conrad. 2004. New dinosaurs link southern landmasses in the Mid-Cretaceous. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 164: 1471–2954.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Vargas, A. 2002. La extrema reducción del radio y la ulna en la evolución de Carnotaurus sastrei: Posible pérdida de función de los genes HOXA11 y HOXD11. Ameghiniana 39: 17R.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Wilson, J.A., P.C. Sereno, S. Srivastava, D.K. Bhatt, A. Khosla, and A. Sahni. 2003. A new abelisaurid (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Lameta Formation (Cretaceous, Maastrichtian) of India. Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology of the University of Michigan 31: 1–42.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Xu, X., M.A. Norell, X.-L. Wang, P.J. Makovicky, and X.-C. Wu. 2002. A basal troodontid from the Early Cretaceous of China. Nature 415: 780–784.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Xu, X., J.M. Clark, J. Mo, J. Choiniere, C.A. Forster, G.M. Erickson, D.W.E. Hone, C. Sullivan, D.A. Eberth, S. Nesbitt, Q. Zhao, R. Hernández, C.-K. Jia, F.-I. Han, and Y. Guo. 2009. A jurassic ceratosaur from China helps clarify avian digital homologies. Nature 459: 940–944.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We wish to thank José Bonaparte (Fundación de Historia Natural Félix de Azara) for allowing us to study the holotypes of Ligabueino andesi and Noasaurus leali, Gabriel Lio (FHNFA) for some drawings of the holotypical material of Noasaurus, and Martín Ezcurra (MACN) for photographs of Ligabueino andesi.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Federico L. Agnolin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Agnolin, F.L., Chiarelli, P. The position of the claws in Noasauridae (Dinosauria: Abelisauroidea) and its implications for abelisauroid manus evolution. Paläontol Z 84, 293–300 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-009-0044-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Abelisauroidea
  • Noasauridae
  • Phalanges
  • Cretaceous
  • Argentina

Schlüsselwörter

  • Abelisauroidea
  • Noasauridae
  • Phalangen
  • Kreide
  • Argentinien