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New heterodontosaurid specimens from the Lower Jurassic of southern Africa and the early ornithischian dinosaur radiation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2011

Laura B. Porro*
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Richard J. Butler*
Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, Richard-Wagner-Straße 10, 80333 Munich, Germany
Paul M. Barrett
Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK
Scott Moore-Fay
Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK Wavecut Platform Ltd, 131 Bradbourne Vale Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 3DJ, UK
Richard L. Abel
Department of Mineralogy, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK
*Corresponding authors
*Corresponding authors


Heterodontosaurids are poorly understood early ornithischian dinosaurs with extensive geographic and stratigraphic ranges. The group is best known from the Lower Jurassic upper ‘Stormberg Group’ (upper Elliot and Clarens formations) of southern Africa, previously represented by at least three distinct species and ten described specimens. This paper describes four additional heterodontosaurid specimens from southern Africa. A partial skull of a large individual of Heterodontosaurus tucki (NM QR 1788) is approximately 70 longer than that of the type specimen of Heterodontosaurus, and provides new information on allometric changes in mandibular morphology during growth in this taxon. It is the largest known heterodontosaurid cranial specimen, representing an individual approximately 1·75 metres in length, and perhaps 10 kg in body mass. NHMUK R14161 is a partial skull that appears to differ from all other heterodontosaurids on the basis of the proportions of the dentaries, and may represent an unnamed new taxon. Two additional partial skulls (NHMUK RU C68, NHMUK RU69) are referred to cf. Lycorhinus. At least four, and possibly five or more, heterodontosaurid species are present in the upper ‘Stormberg’. This high diversity may have been achieved by dietary niche partitioning, and suggests an adaptive radiation of small-bodied ornithischians following the end Triassic extinctions.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Society of Edinburgh 2011

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