First elaphrosaurine theropod dinosaur (Ceratosauria: Noasauridae) from Australia — A cervical vertebra from the Early Cretaceous of Victoria

May 06, 2020

Stephen F. Poropat (1,2), Adele H. Pentland (1,2), Ruairidh J. Duncan (1), Joseph J. Bevitt (3), Patricia Vickers-Rich (1,4), Thomas H. Rich (5)
Gondwana Research, 84, May 2020: 284-295. DOI: 10.1111/joa.13353


Elaphrosaurinae, Theropoda, Gondwana, Australia, Cretaceous


The ability to produce sounds has been reported in various Ostraciidae but not deeply studied. Elaphrosaurinae is an enigmatic clade of gracile ceratosaurian theropod dinosaurs known from the Late Jurassic of Africa (Elaphrosaurus bambergi) and Asia (e.g., Limusaurus inextricabilis), and the early Late Cretaceous of Argentina (Huinculsaurus montesi). Elaphrosaurinae is often placed within Noasauridae as the sister taxon to Noasaurinae, a clade of small-bodied theropods that lived in South America, Africa, Madagascar and India throughout much of the Cretaceous. Herein, we report the first evidence of Elaphrosaurinae from Australia: a nearly complete middle cervical vertebra from the upper Lower Cretaceous (lower Albian) Eumeralla Formation of Cape Otway, Victoria, Australia. The fact that this site would have been situated at ~76°S towards the end of the Early Cretaceous (~110–107 Ma) implies that elaphrosaurines were capable of tolerating near-polar palaeoenvironments, whereas its age indicates that elaphrosaurines persisted in Australia until at least the late Early Cretaceous. The new Australian elaphrosaurine, in tandem with the recently described Huinculsaurus montesi from the Cenomanian–Turonian of Argentina, implies that the spatiotemporal distribution of Elaphrosaurinae has heretofore been greatly underestimated. Historic confusion of elaphrosaurines with coelurosaurs, especially ornithomimosaurs, coupled with our generally poor understanding of noasaurid evolution, might explain the apparent dearth of fossils of this theropod clade worldwide.

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Author Affiliation

(1) Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, Swinburne University of Technology, John St, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia.
(2) Australian Age of Dinosaurs Natural History Museum, The Jump-Up, Winton, Queensland 4735, Australia.
(3) Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Sydney, NSW 2234, Australia.
(4) School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia.
(5) Museums Victoria, PO Box 666, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia.