Friday, December 2, 2016

Muttaburrasaurus by PaleoGuy on DeviantArt

Muttaburrasaurus was a genus of herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur, which lived in what is now northeastern Australia sometime between 112 and 99.6 million years ago during the early Cretaceous Period. It has been recovered in some analyses as a member of the iguanodontian family Rhabdodontidae. After Kunbarrasaurus, it is Australia’s most completely known dinosaur from skeletal remains. It was named after Muttaburra, the site in Queensland, Australia, where it was found.

Muttaburrasaurus was about 8 metres (26 ft) and weighed around 2.8 metric tons (3.1 short tons). The femur of the holotype has a length of 1015 millimetres.

Whether Muttaburrasaurus is capable of quadrupedal movement has been debated; it was originally thought to be an “Iguanodontid”; thought recent studies indicate a rhabdodont position. Ornithopods this basal were incapable of quadrupedal movement. Originally reconstructing Muttaburrasaurus with a thumb spike, Molnar later doubted such a structure was present. The foot was long and broad, with four toes.

Reconstructed skeleton at the Queensland Museum

The species was initially described from a partial skeleton found by grazier Doug Langdon in 1963 at Rosebery Downs Station beside Thomson River near Muttaburra, in the Australian state of Queensland, which also provides the creature's generic name. The remains were collected by paleontologist Dr Alan Bartholomai and entomologist Edward Dahms. After a lengthy preparation of the fossils, it was named in 1981 by Bartholomai and Ralph Molnar, who honoured its discoverer with its specific name langdoni.

The holotype, specimen QM F6140, was found in the Mackunda Formation dating to the Albian-Cenomanian. It consists of a partial skeleton with skull and lower jaws. The underside of the skull and the back of the mandibula, numerous vertebrae, parts of the pelvis, and parts of the front and hind limbs have been preserved.

Molnar originally assigned Muttaburrasaurus to the Iguanodontidae. Later authors suggested more basal euornithopod groups such as the Camptosauridae, Dryosauridae or Hypsilophodontidae. Studies by Andrew McDonald indicate a position in the Rhabdodontidae.

Reconstructed skeleton casts of Muttaburrasaurus, sponsored by Kellogg Company, have been put on display at a number of museums, including the Queensland Museum, Flinders Discovery Centre, and National Dinosaur Museum in Australia.

Mounted skull of a Muttaburrasaurus langdoni at the Australian Museum, Sydney. Photo by Matt Martyniuk (Dinoguy2)

Muttaburrasaurus had very powerful jaws equipped with shearing teeth. Whereas in more derived euornithopod species the replacement teeth alternated with the previous tooth generation to form a tooth battery, in Muttaburrasaurus they grew directly under them and only a single erupted generation was present, thus precluding a chewing motion. An additional basal trait was the lack of a primary ridge on the teeth sides, which show eleven lower ridges. In 1981 Molnar speculated that these qualities indicated an omnivorous diet, implying that Muttaburrasaurus occasionally ate carrion. In 1995 he changed his opinion, suspecting that Muttaburrasaurus's dental system is evolutionarily convergent with the ceratopsian system of shearing teeth. They would have been an adaptation for eating tough vegetation such as cycads.

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