A new small-bodied ornithopod (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) from a deep, high-energy Early Cretaceous river of the Australian-Antarctic rift system

Matthew C. Herne, Alan M. Tait, Vera Weisbecker, Michael Hall, Jay P. Nair, Michael Cleeland, Steven W. Salisbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A new small-bodied ornithopod dinosaur, Diluvicursor pickeringi, gen. et sp. nov., is named from the lower Albian of the Eumeralla Formation in southeastern Australia and helps shed new light on the anatomy and diversity of Gondwanan ornithopods. Comprising an almost complete tail and partial lower right hindlimb, the holotype (NMV P221080) was deposited as a carcass or body-part in a log-filled scour near the base of a deep, high-energy river that incised a faunally rich, substantially forested riverine floodplain within the Australian-Antarctic rift graben. The deposit is termed the 'Eric the Red West Sandstone.' The holotype, interpreted as an older juvenile ~1.2 m in total length, appears to have endured antemortem trauma to the pes. A referred, isolated posterior caudal vertebra (NMV P229456) from the holotype locality, suggests D. pickeringi grew to at least 2.3 m in length. D. pickeringi is characterised by 10 potential autapomorphies, among which dorsoventrally low neural arches and transversely broad caudal ribs on the anterior-most caudal vertebrae are a visually defining combination of features. These features suggest D. pickeringi had robust anterior caudal musculature and strong locomotor abilities. Another isolated anterior caudal vertebra (NMV P228342) from the same deposit, suggests that the fossil assemblage hosts at least two ornithopod taxa. D. pickeringi and two stratigraphically younger, indeterminate Eumeralla Formation ornithopods from Dinosaur Cove, NMV P185992/P185993 and NMV P186047, are closely related. However, the tail of D. pickeringi is far shorter than that of NMV P185992/P185993 and its pes more robust than that of NMV P186047. Preliminary cladistic analysis, utilising three existing datasets, failed to resolve D. pickeringi beyond a large polytomy of Ornithopoda. However, qualitative assessment of shared anatomical features suggest that the Eumeralla Formation ornithopods, South American Anabisetia saldiviai and Gasparinisaura cincosaltensis, Afro-Laurasian dryosaurids and possibly Antarctic Morrosaurus antarcticus share a close phylogenetic progenitor. Future phylogenetic analysis with improved data on Australian ornithopods will help to test these suggested affinities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4113
Number of pages77
JournalPeerJ
Volume2018
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2018 Herne et al.Distributed under Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0. Open Access

Keywords

  • Australia-Antarctica
  • Dinosaur
  • Gondwana
  • Ornithopod
  • Palaeoecology
  • Palaeontology
  • Pathology
  • Sedimentology
  • Systematics
  • Taphonomy

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