Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An artist impression of Kunbarrasaurus ieversi. Image credit: © Australian Geographic.

Kunbarrasaurus is a genus of small herbivorous ankylosaurian dinosaur from the Cretaceous of Australia.

In November 1989, at Marathon Station near Richmond, Queensland, the skeleton was discovered of an ankylosaurian. In January 1990 it was secured by a team led by Ralph Molnar. In 1996, in a provisional description, Molnar concluded that it could be referred to the genus Minmi as a Minmi sp. Subsequently, the specimen was further prepared by an acid bath and investigated by a CAT scan. The new information led to the conclusion that the species could be named in a separate genus of ankylosaur.

In 2015, Lucy G. Leahey, Ralph E. Molnar, Kenneth Carpenter, Lawrence M. Witmer en Steven W. Salisbury named and described the type species Kunbarrasaurus ieversi. The genus name is derived from Kunbarra - the word for 'shield' in the Mayi language of the local Wunumara people. The specific name ieversi honours Mr Ian Ivers, the property manager who originally found the fossil. The description was limited to the skull. Kunbarrasaurus was one of eighteen dinosaur taxa from 2015 to be described in open access or free-to-read journals.

Kunbarrasaurus By cisiopurple

The holotype, QM F1801, was found in a layer of the Allaru Formation, marine sediments dating from the late Albian, or possibly the early Cenomanian. It consists of an almost complete skeleton with skull, containing the vertebral column up to the middle tail, the left shoulder girdle, the left arm minus the hand, the pelvis, both thighbones and most of the body armour. Both the bones and the armour are largely articulated. In the belly region remains have been found of the animal's last meal. The specimen represents the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Eastern Gondwana (Australia, Antarctica, Madagascar and India) and the most complete ankylosaurian skeleton from the entirety of the Gondwanan continents

Kunbarrasaurus was a small armoured dinosaur, that was quadrupedal and had a long tail.

CT scan of the skull, showing internal components

In 2015, some distinguishing traits of the skull of Kunbarrasaurus were established. The roof of the skull is almost perfectly flat, apart from a limited convex profile of the postorbital bone and the nasal bone. The edges of the skull top, formed by the prefrontal, supraorbital and postorbital bones, make a right angle with the skull sides. The supraorbital is made up of one bone instead of two or three.

Kunbarrasaurus was in 2015 placed in the Ankylosauria. The same year Victoria Arbour e.a. had entered QM F1801 and the Minmi holotype as separate operational taxonomic units in their analysis. Whereas Minmi was recovered as a basal member of the Ankylosauridae, QM F1801 had a basal position in Ankylosauria, i.e. was too "primitive" to be included in either the Ankylosauridae or Nodosauridae. In the 2015 description of Kubarrasaurus on qualitative considerations such a position was indeed deemed likely.