- 1 Taxonavigation
- 2 Name
- 3 Holotype
- 4 Referred material
- 5 Type locality
- 6 Horizon
- 7 Revised diagnosis
- 8 Comments
- 9 Description
- 10 Cranium
- 11 Lower jaw
- 12 Premaxillary teeth
- 13 Dentary teeth
- 14 Maxillary teeth
- 15 Axial skeleton
- 16 Pectoral girdle
- 17 Forelimb
- 18 Pelvic girdle
- 19 Hindlimb
- 20 Skeletal reconstruction
- 21 Taxon Treatment
- 22 Images
- 23 Other References
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- Tianyulong confuciusiZheng et al. (2009, Figs 1, 2)
STMN 26-3, partial skeleton laying on its left side preserving most of the skull in left lateral view, the ventral portion of a skull and articulated skeleton lacking the mid and distal caudal vertebrae, right coracoid, left carpus, portions of the left manus, and portions of the right hindlimb (Table 3; Zheng et al. 2009).
IVPP V17090 (Fig. 20), partial skeleton laying on its left side preserving a nearly complete skull, an articulated portion of the column including the posterior dorsal vertebrae, sacral vertebrae, and proximal one-half of the tail with numerous, aligned epaxial and hypaxial ossified tendons, proximal portions of both scapulae, both coracoids, most of both forelimbs including an articulated left carpus and manus in ventral view, and both hindlimbs with right pes mostly in ventral view and left pes mostly in dorsal view (Tables 4, 5).
Jianchang County, Liaoning Province, PRC; collected privately but localities are probably in the vicinity N41°20', E119°40'.
Heterodontosaurid with (1) only two premaxillary teeth, (2) rectangular dentary ramus with parallel dorsal and ventral margins, (3) extremely reduced forelimb that is less than 30% the length of the hindlimb, (4) manual digit III and metacarpal 3 shorter than manual digit II and metacarpal 2, respectively, (5) tail increased in length, (6) subtriangular chevrons in mid caudal vertebrae, and (7) numerous parallel ossified epaxial and hypaxial ossified tendons in the mid and distal regions of the tail.
The holotype is a mature skeleton as evidenced by fusion of sacral centra, fusion or tight articulation of the neural arch and centrum of all other preserved vertebrae, and fusion between the tibia and proximal tarsals and between the bases of the metatarsals. The stratigraphic origin and geological age of Tianyulong remain uncertain, because all currently known specimens were collected privately (X. Xu, pers. comm.). The initial description of Tianyulong only reported a general area (“Jianchang County, Liaoning Province”) and horizon (“Jehol Group, Early Cretaceous”) (Zheng et al. 2009: 333). Upper Jurassic formations underlying the Jehol Group also have yielded specimens with integument preservation and a similar taphonomic attributes (Hu et al. 2009), and so the assignment of Tianyulong to the Yixian Formation with a Lower Cretaceous (Barremian-Aptian) age awaits confirmation.
The following brief description is based on two skeletons, the holotype (STMN 26-3; Fig. 9C) and a referred specimen (IVPP V17090; 20–30). Four additional skeletons of varying completeness are catalogued in the collections of the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature. Further preparation and study of all of these specimens of Tianyulong is needed before attempting a reliable skull reconstruction. The present description focuses on the most important features, culminating in a skeletal reconstruction (Fig. 30) and a set of comparative measurements (Tables 3–5).
The cranium is well represented in the holotype and referred specimens, although several portions remain poorly understood (Figs 20–23). Little is known of the posterodorsal portion of the cranium, which is broken away in the holotype (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009; Fig. 9C) and disarticulated and only partially prepared in the referred specimen (Fig. 21). Likewise, virtually nothing is known about the palate and braincase. The shape of the skull is similar to that in Heterodontosaurus; both are subtriangular in lateral view with a gently concave roof over the antorbital region. Both crania also are preserved in a similar manner, with jaws in occlusion and the premaxilla and predentary in close approximation (Fig. 21).
In both skulls the alveolar margin of the premaxilla is tilted slightly anteroventrally and is positioned ventral to the maxillary tooth row (Figs 22, 23). A horizontal line along the maxillary crowns at mid height passes above the premaxillary alveolar margin and closer to the ventral margin of the external naris. Approximately 60% of the length of the premaxillary alveolar margin is edentulous, the posterior 40% of its length accommodating two premaxillary teeth. In both skulls the posterior end of the alveolar margin curves posterodorsally, exposing a portion of the root of the caniniform second premaxillary tooth. Dorsal to this root, the premaxilla forms the anterior portion of an inset, arched diastema for the large dentary caniniform tooth. The narial fossa extends ventrally near the alveolar margin, and the external naris is dorsoventrally elongate as in Heterodontosaurus. The posterolateral process of the premaxilla also is very similar in shape and articular contacts to that in Heterodontosaurus. This process expands in width above the caniniform tooth and then tapers to a narrow tip, which in the holotype appears to establish point contact with the anterior tip of the lacrimal (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009).
The subtriangular maxilla forms the posterior portion of the inset, arched diastema (Fig. 9C). Most of the lateral aspect of the maxilla is occupied by the subtriangular antorbital fossa, which is bordered ventrally by a sharp, slightly arched rim. The buccal emargination ventral to this rim is narrow compared to that in Echinodon and Lycorhinus. The jugal appears to lack the horn and flange that characterizes Heterodontosaurus and Manidens.
The predentary is a small, wedge-shaped bone that lacks discrete processes (Figs 22, 23). The predentary had been shown with a long ventral process (Zheng et al. 2009: fig. 1d; Fig. 9C), but a portion of this process is actually the ventral margin of the dentary. All but the posterodorsal corner of the predentary is positioned anterior to the premaxillary caniniform tooth.
The dentary ramus is straight and parallel-sided for most of its length (Fig. 21) in contrast to most heterodontosaurids, which exhibit a posterior deepening of the ramus. At its anterior end, a ventral protuberance is present in both the holotypic and referred skulls (Figs 22, 23). Anterior to the protuberance, the dentary end is strongly beveled as in Echinodon (Fig. 17). The ventral rim of the well developed buccal emargination is marked by diverging impressed vessel tracts (Figs 22, 23).
The sutures between the postdentary bones are poorly preserved in the two available specimens. The coronoid process rises well above the level of the dentary crowns as in Heterodontosaurus, but the jaw articulation is not dropped relative to the occlusal plane (Figs 9C, 21). As best seen in the holotypic skull, a line drawn through the zone of occlusion between the cheek tooth rows passes just ventral to the jaw articulation (Fig. 9C). The coronoid process of the dentary was shown as a deep ramus rather than a more slender process (Zheng et al. 2009), an interpretation that may have incorporated portions of the adjacent surangular (Fig. 9C). An external mandibular fenestra appears to have been present (Zheng et al. 2009). There is no evidence for the presence of an external mandibular fossa around the fenestra or for an incised vessel tract to a large anterior surangular foramen, both of which characterize Lycorhinus, Manidens and Heterodontosaurus.
There are two premaxillary teeth, the first a small tooth known only from its broken base and the second a large caniniform tooth (Figs 22, 23). The caniniform premaxillary tooth, the base of which is better preserved in the holotype skull, has a gentle posterior recurvature. Mesial and distal carinae are present, at least the latter with serrations. Only the larger distal premaxillary tooth was shown in the initial drawing of the holotypic skull (Fig. 9C). As in all heterodontosaurids and neornithischians, there is a substantial edentulous border preceding the first premaxillary tooth.
The total number of dentary teeth in Tianyulong cannot be established with certainty based on the holotype, although referred skulls suggest there are 10 dentary teeth. An enlarged caniniform is the first tooth in the dentary series; no trace of a leading rudimentary crown is present. The dentary caniniform tooth is followed by a postcaniniform crown without a significant intervening gap, similar to the condition in Echinodon and Fruitadens. The first postcaniniform tooth in the holotypic skull can be seen in the photographs slightly dislodged toward the caniniform tooth (Zheng et al. 2009: fig. 1e). It was omitted in a drawing of the holotypic skull (Fig. 9C), leaving the impression that a postcaniniform diastema may be present in Tianyulong. The first dentary tooth has a subconical crown that is slightly smaller than that of more distal dentary teeth. This differs from the substantially smaller tooth immediately distal to the caniniform tooth in Fruitadens (Fig. 9A). A referred specimen in the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature collections confirms the morphology, size and position of the first postcaniniform dentary tooth.
Successive dentary crowns 3-10 become slightly larger in the holotypic and referred skulls. In these postcaniniform dentary teeth, the bulbous cingulum has well-defined margins, a cingular ectoloph raised above the remainder of the crown surface including the primary ridge. The cingulum curves apically, terminating mesially and distally in prominent apically projecting denticles. Toward the posterior end of the dentary series, the prominence of the apical, mesial and distal basal denticles gives the crown a tricuspid appearance. The penultimate tooth, dentary tooth 9, is the largest in the series. The most distal tooth, dentary tooth 10, has a considerably smaller crown, as seen in several referred skulls.
The total number of maxillary teeth is currently unknown given the available evidence in the holotypic and referred skulls. In the right maxillary series of the holotypic skull, the crowns of the smallest teeth just behind the caniniform dentary tooth are broken at their bases (Fig. 9C). This pair is followed by three crowns, a gap for a missing sixth maxillary tooth, and a final set of three teeth, all of which have crowns that are progressively larger in size (Zheng et al. 2009: fig. 1d). Probably at least two additional teeth with progressively smaller crowns were present at the distal end of the maxillary series. Taking these two into account, a total of 11 maxillary teeth likely were present in the holotypic skull.
Maxillary and dentary crowns are subtriangular, the dentary crowns somewhat deeper than opposing maxillary crowns as in Echinodon. All have similar features in labial view (Fig. 24). The bulbous cingulum is well-defined from the remainder of the crown surface as in the largest crowns in Fruitadens, and the root is tapered rather than swollen. The cingulum curves apically as a prominent cingular ectoloph along the mesial and distal crowns edges, terminating in prominent basal denticles mesially and distally. Arching of the alveolar margins is not pronounced as in Abrictosaurus and Heterodontosaurus. The dentary alveolar margin is straight; the opposing maxillary margin is gently arched in both holotypic and referred skulls (Figs 22, 23).
Theholotype preserves the posterior one-half of the cervical series (C5-9), and much of the dorsal column is preserved in the referred skeleton. Centrum length is nearly constant, measuring approximately 5 mm (Fig. 30; Table 4). In Heterodontosaurus, in contrast, centrum length decreases in posterior cervical vertebrae by approximately 20% (Fig. 72, Table 7). Posterior dorsal centra have deeply concave sides and join as a gently arched series (Fig. 20). Their hatchet-shaped neural spines are longer than deep and nearly touch at their anterior and posterior extremities (IVPP V17090). In Heterodontosaurus, in contrast, the neural spines of the posterior dorsal vertebrae are deeper than long and well separated (Fig. 72). The sacral vertebrae are fused in IVPP V17090, and it is possible to measure only the centrum length of S1 (Table 4).
The proximal one-half of the caudal series is preserved in the holotypic skeleton and nearly as much in the referred skeleton (Fig. 25). The tail is very long, exceeding the length of the precaudal column by the twentieth caudal vertebra (Fig. 30). Caudal centra increase in length by approximately 40% from the first to the tenth caudal vertebra. By the seventh caudal vertebra, the neural arch is low and hatchet-shaped and the opposing chevrons subtriangular rather than strap-shaped (Fig. 25). At this point in the tail, a sheath of parallel ossified tendons are present spanning the neural spines and chevrons. By the thirteenth caudal vertebra, the neural spines are reduced to a ridge, and the chevrons are boat-shaped (Fig. 25). Although a few epaxial ossified tendons are present near the neural arches of the posterior dorsal, sacral and anterior caudal vertebrae (IVPP V17090), the sheath of ossified tendons starting around the seventh caudal vertebra would have stiffened mid and distal portions of the tail. The caudal structure in Tianyulong is remarkably similar to that in dromaeosaurid theropods (Ostrom 1969), the neural spines and chevrons changing in a similar manner distally and the parallel sheath of ossified tendons equivalent to the parallel, attenuated processes of the prezygapophyses and chevrons. Probably the more mobile tail base and stiffened mid and distal tail functioned in a similar manner as a balancing beam to enhance maneuverability.
Both scapulocoracoids are preserved in opposition in the referred skeleton (Fig. 20; IVPP V17090). The right forelimb is disarticulated dorsally, the humerus displaced from its articulation in the glenoid. The proximal end of the right humerus is exposed, the remainder of the bone damaged or embedded as it crosses a crack in the slab to a small corner of bone, the medial epicondyle. The right humerus has an estimated length of 28 mm. The left humerus, with an estimated length of 26 mm, lies in articulation with the glenoid of the scapulocoracoid proximally and the remainder of the left forelimb distally. The holotypic skeleton preserves both scapulocoracoids and humeri but little of the distal forelimb (Zheng et al. 2009: suppl. info.). Overlapping limb bone measurements suggest that the holotypic skeleton (STMN 26-3) is approximately 15% larger than the referred skeleton (IVPP V17090; Table 3).
Proximally, the scapula broadens gradually to the acromial process as in Heterodontosaurus (Santa Luca 1984). The neck is narrow as is most of the slender, straight strap-shaped blade (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009: suppl. info.). The distal end of the blade is not well exposed in either specimen. Expansion in width of the distal end of the blade, if present, would be proportionately less than in Heterodontosaurus. The coracoid has a subquadrate body and a prominent hook-shaped posterior process (STMN 26-3).
The humerus, which is best preserved in STMN 26-3, has a bulbous head, prominent deltopectoral crest, gently curved shaft and prominent distal condyles as in Heterodontosaurus. The olecranon process of the ulna, also best exposed in STMN 26-3, is very prominent proximally as in Heterodontosaurus. The radius tapers at mid-shaft and expands distally as in Heterodontosaurus to broadly contact a well ossified, but poorly preserved, carpus (Figs 26, 27).
The manus probably retained all five digits as in Heterodontosaurus, although only fragments of digits IV and V remain (Figs 26, 27; Table 5; IVPP V17090). The proportions of the manual digits are most unusual among ornithischians including Heterodontosaurus. Digit II and metacarpal 2 are longer than digit III and metacarpal 3. This mismatch in length is due to the shortening of all bones in digit III, as metacarpal 1 is also longer than metacarpal 3 (Figs 26, 27). The block-shaped bases and divided distal condyles of metacarpals 1-3 are well exposed. Metacarpal 1 has a particularly broad base as in Heterodontosaurus. The phalangeal formula 2-3-4-?-? is typical for the inner three digits of basal dinosaurs and archosaurs in general.
The two phalanges of manual digit I diverge medially from the others. The nonungual phalanges have proximal intercondylar processes articulating between paired distal condyles with well-formed collateral ligament pits as in Heterodontosaurus. The penultimate phalanges in digits II and III, in addition, are longer than the preceding phalanges, suggesting an enhanced grasping function for the manus in Tianyulong as in Heterodontosaurus. The unguals are transversely compressed and trenchant, that on digit I longer than those on digits II and III (Figs 26, 27).
Little can be said about the ilium, which is poorly preserved in both skeletons. The ischia and pubes are preserved in lateral view (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009: suppl. Info). The ischial shaft is gently dorsally bowed, a curve not present in Heterodontosaurus. The ischial shaft is transversely compressed and lacks any flanges or processes, including the lateral flange of Heterodontosaurus (Santa Luca 1984) or the obturator process present in many ornithischians.
Of the pubis, only the postpubic process is preserved (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009). Its shaft is rod-shaped and very slender as in Heterodontosaurus but only one-half its length. The process tapers to a slender tip just beyond the midpoint of the ischial shaft.
The femoral head is large and round, and the femoral shaft is robust with a proximally placed pendant fourth trochanter (IVPP V17090). Whether the anterior trochanter is separate as in the Kayenta heterodontosaurid and Abrictosaurus or fused with the greater trochanter as in Fruitadens cannot be determined. The tibia is extremely elongate, measuring more than 140% the length of the femur (Table 3). The cnemial crest is lower than in Heterodontosaurus, so that in medial view the anterior margin of the proximal end of the tibia is straight rather than convex (Fig. 20). The posterior condyles expand farther away from the central axis of the shaft. A fibular crest on the tibia supports the proximal end of the fibula, which has a swollen anterior trochanter (STMN 26-3; Zheng et al. 2009: suppl. info.). Distally, the fibula tapers to a slender rod. The tibia, fibula and proximal tarsals appear fused as a tibiotarsus as in most specimens of Heterodontosaurus. The distal tarsals are dislodged on one side of the referred skeleton and thus may not have coossified with the metatarsus.
In the pes, the proximal ends of metatarsal 1-4 appear to be coossified. Pedal digit I is very short, the tip of its ungual extending just beyond the condyles of metatarsal 2 (Figs 28, 29). That ungual, however, is quite large, equaling the length of the ungual on digit II and exceeding the length of the ungual on digit IV. Pedal digit III, in contrast, is slightly longer relative to pedal digits II and IV, a proportion that fits with other cursorial adaptations of the hindlimb. There is no trace of pedal digit V, which may owe its absence in Tianyulong to postmortem loss. The unguals are transversely compressed and taper to slender tips (Table 5). Several of the unguals preserve portions of the keratinous claw sheath (Figs 28, 29).
Tianyulong has very unusual skeletal proportions that differ from those in Heterodontosaurus and, to the extent that comparisons are possible, other heterodontosaurids (Figs 30, 72; Tables 3–9). The skull is proportionately very large and the hindlimbs are very long, whereas the neck and trunk are proportionately small and the forelimbs are reduced in length. Using Archaeopteryx for initial comparison (Wellnhofer 1993), the skull of Tianyulong is 25% longer than in the Eichstätt specimen, which has a nearly identical femoral length (Table 5). The tibiofemoral ratio in this specimen of Archaeopteryx is high (140%), although still slightly lower than in Tianyulong (143%). The humerus, in contrast, is approximately 48% the length of that in Archaeopteryx. As discussed further below (see Discussion, Body size and proportions), these unusual proportions give this small-bodied heterodontosaurid the appearance of a large-headed, short-armed, long-legged dwarf (Fig. 30) with very different proportions than in Heterodontosaurus (Fig. 72).
|Cranium||Length, premaxilla to posterior edge of squamosal||65|
|Preorbital length, anterior rim of orbit to tip of premaxilla||30|
|Occiput height, quadrate condyle to parietal occipital flange||(23)|
|Antorbital fossa maximum length||15|
|Antorbital fossa maximum height||9|
|Dorsal Vertebrae||D7 centrum length||5|
|D8 centrum length||5|
|D9 centrum length||5|
|D10 centrum length||5|
|D11 centrum length||5|
|D12 centrum length||5|
|Sacral Vertebrae||S1 centrum length||5|
|Caudal Vertebrae||CA1 centrum length||—|
|CA2 centrum length||5|
|CA3 centrum length||5|
|CA4 centrum length||6|
|CA5 centrum length||6|
|CA6 centrum length||6|
|CA7 centrum length||7|
|CA8 centrum length||7|
|CA9 centrum length||8|
|CA10 centrum length||8|
|CA11 centrum length||8|
|CA12 centrum length||8|
|CA13 centrum length||8|
|Pectoral girdle||Scapula length||(23)|
|Scapular blade, minimum neck width||2|
|Scapular blade, distal width||—|
|Proximal forelimb||Humerus length||(27)|
|Radius + carpus + manus (radial head to tip of digit II)||381|
|Manual digit I||Manual digit I length||161|
|Metacarpal 1 length||61|
|Phalanx I-1 length||51|
|Ungual I-2 length||41|
|Manual digit II||Manual digit II length||211|
|Metacarpal 2 length||71|
|Phalanx II-1 length||3.51|
|Phalanx II-2 length||41|
|Ungual II-3 length||41|
|Manual digit III||Manual digit III length||161|
|Metacarpal 3 length||51|
|Phalanx III-1 length||2.51|
|Phalanx III-2 length||21|
|Phalanx III-3 length||31|
|Ungual III-4 length||31|
|Proximal hind limb||Femur length||51|
|Tibiotarsus proximal end, anteroposterior length||11|
|Tibiotarsus mid shaft, anteroposterior diameter||5|
|Pedal digit I||Metatarsal 1 length||251|
|Phalanx I-1 length||61|
|Ungual I-2 length||91|
|Pedal digit II||Metatarsal 2 length||(39)1|
|Phalanx II-1 length||10.51|
|Phalanx II-2 length||9.51|
|Ungual II-3 length||91|
|Pedal digit III||Metatarsal 3 length||(43)1|
|Phalanx III-1 length||121|
|Phalanx III-2 length||91|
|Phalanx III-3 length||81|
|Ungual III-4 length||81|
|Pedal digit IV||Metatarsal 4 length||(40)1|
|Phalanx IV-1 length||8|
|Phalanx IV-2 length||6|
|Phalanx IV-3 length||5|
|Phalanx IV-4 length||6|
|Ungual IV-5 length||6|
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