New horned dinosaurs from Utah provide evidence for intracontinental dinosaur endemism.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: During much of the Late Cretaceous, a shallow, epeiric sea divided North America into eastern and western landmasses. The western landmass, known as Laramidia, although diminutive in size, witnessed a major evolutionary radiation of dinosaurs. Other than hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs), the most common dinosaurs were ceratopsids (large-bodied horned dinosaurs), currently known only from Laramidia and Asia. Remarkably, previous studies have postulated the occurrence of latitudinally arrayed dinosaur "provinces," or "biomes," on Laramidia. Yet this hypothesis has been challenged on multiple fronts and has remained poorly tested. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here we describe two new, co-occurring ceratopsids from the Upper Cretaceous Kaiparowits Formation of Utah that provide the strongest support to date for the dinosaur provincialism hypothesis. Both pertain to the clade of ceratopsids known as Chasmosaurinae, dramatically increasing representation of this group from the southern portion of the Western Interior Basin of North America. Utahceratops gettyi gen. et sp. nov.-characterized by short, rounded, laterally projecting supraorbital horncores and an elongate frill with a deep median embayment-is recovered as the sister taxon to Pentaceratops sternbergii from the late Campanian of New Mexico. Kosmoceratops richardsoni gen. et sp. nov.-characterized by elongate, laterally projecting supraorbital horncores and a short, broad frill adorned with ten well developed hooks-has the most ornate skull of any known dinosaur and is closely allied to Chasmosaurus irvinensis from the late Campanian of Alberta. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Considered in unison, the phylogenetic, stratigraphic, and biogeographic evidence documents distinct, co-occurring chasmosaurine taxa north and south on the diminutive landmass of Laramidia. The famous Triceratops and all other, more nested chasmosaurines are postulated as descendants of forms previously restricted to the southern portion of Laramidia. Results further suggest the presence of latitudinally arrayed evolutionary centers of endemism within chasmosaurine ceratopsids during the late Campanian, the first documented occurrence of intracontinental endemism within dinosaurs.
Project description:Megaherbivorous dinosaur coexistence on the Late Cretaceous island continent of Laramidia has long puzzled researchers, owing to the mystery of how so many large herbivores (6-8 sympatric species, in many instances) could coexist on such a small (4-7 million km(2)) landmass. Various explanations have been put forth, one of which-dietary niche partitioning-forms the focus of this study. Here, we apply traditional morphometric methods to the skulls of megaherbivorous dinosaurs from the Dinosaur Park Formation (upper Campanian) of Alberta to infer the ecomorphology of these animals and to test the niche partitioning hypothesis. We find evidence for niche partitioning not only among contemporaneous ankylosaurs, ceratopsids, and hadrosaurids, but also within these clades at the family and subfamily levels. Consubfamilial ceratopsids and hadrosaurids differ insignificantly in their inferred ecomorphologies, which may explain why they rarely overlap stratigraphically: interspecific competition prevented their coexistence.
Project description:During the Late Cretaceous, the continent of North America was divided into two sections: Laramidia in the west and Appalachia in the east. Although the sediments of Appalachia recorded only a sparse fossil record of dinosaurs, the dinosaur faunas of this landmass were different in composition from those of Laramidia. Represented by at least two taxa (Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis and Dryptosaurus aquilunguis), partial and fragmentary skeletons, and isolated bones, the non-tyrannosaurid tyrannosauroids of the landmass have attracted some attention. Unfortunately, these eastern tyrants are poorly known compared to their western contemporaries. Here, one specimen, the partial metatarsus of a tyrannosauroid from the Campanian Merchantville Formation of Delaware, is described in detail. The specimen can be distinguished from A. montgomeriensis and D. aquilunguis by several morphological features. As such, the specimen represents a potentially previously unrecognized taxon of tyrannosauroid from Appalachia, increasing the diversity of the clade on the landmass. Phylogenetic analysis and the morphology of the bones suggest the Merchantville specimen is a tyrannosauroid of "intermediate" grade, thus supporting the notion that Appalachia was a refugium for relict dinosaur clades.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The chasmosaurine ceratopsid Chasmosaurus is known from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Dinosaur Park Formation of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Two valid species, Chasmosaurus belli and C. russelli, have been diagnosed by differences in cranial ornamentation. Their validity has been supported, in part, by the reported stratigraphic segregation of chasmosaurines in the Dinosaur Park Formation, with C. belli and C. russelli occurring in discrete, successive zones within the formation. RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS:An analysis of every potentially taxonomically informative chasmosaurine specimen from the Dinosaur Park Formation indicates that C. belli and C. russelli have indistinguishable ontogenetic histories and overlapping stratigraphic intervals. Neither taxon exhibits autapomorphies, nor a unique set of apomorphies, but they can be separated and diagnosed by a single phylogenetically informative character-the embayment angle formed by the posterior parietal bars relative to the parietal midline. Although relatively deeply embayed specimens (C. russelli) generally have relatively longer postorbital horncores than specimens with more shallow embayments (C. belli), neither this horncore character nor epiparietal morphology can be used to consistently distinguish every specimen of C. belli from C. russelli. STATUS OF KOSMOCERATOPS IN THE DINOSAUR PARK FORMATION:Kosmoceratops is purportedly represented in the Dinosaur Park Formation by a specimen previously referred to Chasmosaurus. The reassignment of this specimen to Kosmoceratops is unsupported here, as it is based on features that are either influenced by taphonomy or within the realm of individual variation for Chasmosaurus. Therefore, we conclude that Kosmoceratops is not present in the Dinosaur Park Formation, but is instead restricted to southern Laramidia, as originally posited.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Herbivore coexistence on the Late Cretaceous island continent of Laramidia has been a topic of great interest, stemming from the paradoxically high diversity and biomass of these animals in relation to the relatively small landmass available to them. Various hypotheses have been advanced to account for these facts, of which niche partitioning is among the most frequently invoked. However, despite its wide acceptance, this hypothesis has not been rigorously tested. This study uses the fossil assemblage from the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta as a model to investigate whether niche partitioning facilitated herbivorous dinosaur coexistence on Laramidia. Specifically, the question of feeding height stratification is examined in light of the role it plays in facilitating modern ungulate coexistence.<h4>Results</h4>Most herbivorous dinosaur species from the Dinosaur Park Formation were restricted to feeding no higher than approximately 1 m above the ground. There is minimal evidence for feeding height partitioning at this level, with ceratopsids capable of feeding slightly higher than ankylosaurs, but the ecological significance of this is ambiguous. Hadrosaurids were uniquely capable of feeding up to 2 m quadrupedally, or up to 5 m bipedally. There is no evidence for either feeding height stratification within any of these clades, or for change in these ecological relationships through the approximately 1.5 Ma record of the Dinosaur Park Formation.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Although we cannot reject the possibility, we find no good evidence that feeding height stratification, as revealed by reconstructed maximum feeding heights, played an important role in facilitating niche partitioning among the herbivorous dinosaurs of Laramidia. Most browsing pressure was concentrated in the herb layer, although hadrosaurids were capable of reaching shrubs and low-growing trees that were out of reach from ceratopsids, ankylosaurs, and other small herbivores, effectively dividing the herbivores in terms of relative abundance. Sympatric hadrosaurids may have avoided competing with one another by feeding differentially using bipedal and quadrupedal postures. These ecological relationships evidently proved to be evolutionarily stable because they characterize the herbivore assemblage of the Dinosaur Park Formation through time. If niche partitioning served to facilitate the rich diversity of these animals, it may have been achieved by other means in addition to feeding height stratification. Consideration of other feeding height proxies, including dental microwear and skull morphology, may help to alleviate problems of underdetermination identified here.
Project description:The Upper Cretaceous (middle-late Campanian) Wahweap Formation of southern Utah contains the oldest diagnostic evidence of ceratopsids (to date, all centrosaurines) in North America, with a number of specimens recovered from throughout a unit that spans between 81 and 77 Ma. Only a single specimen has been formally named, Diabloceratops eatoni, from the lower middle member of the formation. Machairoceratops cronusi gen. et sp. nov., a new centrosaurine ceratopsid from the upper member of the Wahweap Formation, is here described based on cranial material representing a single individual recovered from a calcareous mudstone. The specimen consists of two curved and elongate orbital horncores, a left jugal, a nearly complete, slightly deformed braincase, the left squamosal, and a mostly complete parietal ornamented by posteriorly projected, anterodorsally curved, elongate spikes on either side of a midline embayment. The fan-shaped, stepped-squamosal is diagnostic of Centrosaurinae, however, this element differs from the rectangular squamosal in Diabloceratops. Machairoceratops also differs in the possession of two anterodorsally (rather than laterally) curved epiparietal ornamentations on either side of a midline embayment that are distinguished by a posteromedially-oriented sulcus along the entire length of the epiparietal. Additionally, the parietosquamosal frill is lacking any other epiossifications along its periphery. Machairoceratops shares a triangular (rather than round) frill and spike-like epiparietal loci (p1) ornamentation with the stratigraphically lower Diabloceratops. Both parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses place Machairoceratops as an early-branching centrosaurine. However, the parsimony-based analysis provides little resolution for the position of the new taxon, placing it in an unresolved polytomy with Diabloceratops. The resultant Bayesian topology yielded better resolution, aligning Machairoceratops as the definitive sister taxon to a clade formed by Diabloceratops and Albertaceratops. Considered together, both phylogenetic methods unequivocally place Machairoceratops as an early-branching centrosaurine, and given the biostratigraphic position of Machairoceratops, these details increase the known ceratopsid diversity from both the Wahweap Formation and the southern portion of Laramidia. Finally, the unique morphology of the parietal ornamentation highlights the evolutionary disparity of frill ornamentation near the base of Centrosaurinae.
Project description:While centrosaurines and ceratopsids in general are abundant in the Late Campanian of northern Laramidia, they are much less commonly found in southern Laramidia. This has supported hypotheses of dinosaur provinciality and endemism in the Late Cretaceous with the delineation of at least two separate faunal zones, north and south Laramidia. There have been 12 genera of centrosaurines recognized from northern Laramidia while two genera, Diabloceratops and Nasutoceratops, have been named from southern Laramidia. We present an osteological description and taphonomic outline for a new centrosaurine ceratopsid from the Aguja Formation of northern Coahuila, Mexico that is not currently diagnosable to the generic level, but likely represents a new taxon. Further, we have included three-dimensional surface scans of all material attributed to this animal. Considering the large number of centrosaurines from northern Laramidia, it is likely that cladistic analyses are biased towards this faunal zone. New findings of southern centrosaurines are needed to correct this bias. This discovery expands the range of centrosaurines south to Coahuila, Mexico and adds new information to better characterize the morphology and taxonomy of centrosaurines from southern Laramidia and their evolution in comparison to their northern counterparts.
Project description:Megaherbivorous dinosaurs were exceptionally diverse on the Late Cretaceous island continent of Laramidia, and a growing body of evidence suggests that this diversity was facilitated by dietary niche partitioning. We test this hypothesis using the fossil megaherbivore assemblage from the Dinosaur Park Formation (upper Campanian) of Alberta as a model. Comparative tooth morphology and wear, including the first use of quantitative dental microwear analysis in the context of Cretaceous palaeosynecology, are used to infer the mechanical properties of the foods these dinosaurs consumed. The phylliform teeth of ankylosaurs were poorly adapted for habitually processing high-fibre plant matter. Nevertheless, ankylosaur diets were likely more varied than traditionally assumed: the relatively large, bladed teeth of nodosaurids would have been better adapted to processing a tougher, more fibrous diet than the smaller, cusp-like teeth of ankylosaurids. Ankylosaur microwear is characterized by a preponderance of pits and scratches, akin to modern mixed feeders, but offers no support for interspecific dietary differences. The shearing tooth batteries of ceratopsids are much better adapted to high-fibre herbivory, attested by their scratch-dominated microwear signature. There is tentative microwear evidence to suggest differences in the feeding habits of centrosaurines and chasmosaurines, but statistical support is not significant. The tooth batteries of hadrosaurids were capable of both shearing and crushing functions, suggestive of a broad dietary range. Their microwear signal overlaps broadly with that of ankylosaurs, and suggests possible dietary differences between hadrosaurines and lambeosaurines. Tooth wear evidence further indicates that all forms considered here exhibited some degree of masticatory propaliny. Our findings reveal that tooth morphology and wear exhibit different, but complimentary, dietary signals that combine to support the hypothesis of dietary niche partitioning. The inferred mechanical and dietary patterns appear constant over the 1.5 Myr timespan of the Dinosaur Park Formation megaherbivore chronofauna, despite continual species turnover.
Project description:This study reports on a new ceratopsid, Spiclypeus shipporum gen et sp. nov., from the lower Coal Ridge Member of the Judith River Formation in Montana, USA, which dates to ~76 Ma (upper Campanian). The species is distinguished by rugose dorsal contacts on the premaxillae for the nasals, laterally projecting postorbital horncores, fully fused and anteriorly curled P1 and P2 epiparietals, and a posterodorsally projecting P3 epiparietal. The holotype specimen is also notable for its pathological left squamosal and humerus, which show varied signs of osteomyelitis and osteoarthritis. Although the postorbital horncores of Spiclypeus closely resemble those of the contemporaneous 'Ceratops', the horncores of both genera are nevertheless indistinguishable from those of some other horned dinosaurs, including Albertaceratops and Kosmoceratops; 'Ceratops' is therefore maintained as a nomen dubium. Cladistic analysis recovers Spiclypeus as the sister taxon to the clade Vagaceratops + Kosmoceratops, and appears transitional in the morphology of its epiparietals. The discovery of Spiclypeus adds to the poorly known dinosaur fauna of the Judith River Formation, and suggests faunal turnover within the formation.
Project description:A new species of tyrannosaurid from the upper Two Medicine Formation of Montana supports the presence of a Laramidian anagenetic (ancestor-descendant) lineage of Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids. In concert with other anagenetic lineages of dinosaurs from the same time and place, this suggests that anagenesis could have been a widespread mechanism generating species diversity amongst dinosaurs, and perhaps beyond. We studied the excellent fossil record of the tyrannosaurid to test that hypothesis. Phylogenetic analysis places this new taxon as the sister species to Daspletosaurus torosus. However, given their close phylogenetic relationship, geographic proximity, and temporal succession, where D. torosus (~76.7-75.2?Ma) precedes the younger new species (~75.1-74.4?Ma), we argue that the two forms most likely represent a single anagenetic lineage. Daspletosaurus was an important apex predator in the late Campanian dinosaur faunas of Laramidia; its absence from later units indicates it was extinct before Tyrannosaurus rex dispersed into Laramidia from Asia. In addition to its evolutionary implications, the texture of the facial bones of the new taxon, and other derived tyrannosauroids, indicates a scaly integument with high tactile sensitivity. Most significantly, the lower jaw shows evidence for neurovasculature that is also seen in birds.
Project description:The fossil record of ceratopsid dinosaurs between the occurrence of their proximate sister taxa in the Turonian and the beginning of their well-documented radiation from the late Campanian of North America onwards (approximately 90 and 77 Ma) is poor, with only seven taxa described from this early period in their evolution. We describe a new taxon of a highly adorned basal centrosaurine, Wendiceratops pinhornensis gen. et sp. nov., from the lower part of the Oldman Formation (middle Campanian, approximately 78-79 Ma), Alberta, Canada. Over 200 bones derived from virtually all parts of the skeleton, including multiple well-preserved specimens of the diagnostic parietosquamosal frill, were collected from a medium-density monodominant bonebed, making the new taxon one of the best-represented early ceratopsids. The new taxon is apomorphic in having epiparietals at loci 2 and 3 developed as broad-based, pachyostotic processes that are strongly procurved anterodorsally to overhang the posterior and lateral parietal rami, and an ischium with a broad, rectangular distal terminus. Although the morphology of the nasal is incompletely known, Wendiceratops is inferred to have a large, upright nasal horn located close to the orbits, which represents the oldest occurrence of this feature in Ceratopsia. Given the phylogenetic position of the new taxon within Centrosaurinae, a enlarged nasal horn is hypothesized to have arisen independently at least twice in ceratopsid evolution.