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New Materials of Masiakasaurus knopfleri Sampson, Carrano, and Forster, 2001, and Implications for the Morphology of the Noasauridae (Theropoda: Ceratosauria)
Matthew T. Carrano, Mark A. Loewen, and Joseph J. W. Sertich
viii + 53 pages
2011 (Date of Issue: 18 January 2011)
Number 95, Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology
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Full Description (from SIRIS)


Osteology of the noasaurid theropod Masiakasaurus knopfleri Sampson et al., 2001, is now two-thirds complete. We describe Masiakasaurus knopfleri in detail on the basis of examination of new specimens and emphasis on previously unknown elements. The skull is anteroposteriorly long but low in height, unlike the foreshortened abelisaurid condition. Premaxillary teeth are procumbent, like those of the dentary. Frontal bones are flat and unornamented, but the lacrimal and postorbital exhibit surface texturing. The braincase resembles that of abelisaurids but is more highly pneumatized. The neck is curved anteriorly but horizontal posteriorly, and it transitions to the trunk without significant proportional changes. Centrum pneumaticity appears confined to the neck and anterior trunk. The sacrum includes six vertebrae, and the expanded transverse processes of caudal vertebrae may articulate with caudal ribs. The scapulocoracoid is large and broad. The ilium is both anteroposteriorly long and dorsoventrally deep, and it bears pegs for articulation with sockets on the pubis and ischium, as in other ceratosaurs. The nearly complete pes shows no particular locomotor specializations and allows reinterpretation of the “raptorial” pedal ungual of Noasaurus as a manual element. These new specimens also illuminate the morphology of other noasaurids, especially those from the Lameta Formation.

In addition to Madagascar, noasaurids are known from Europe, India, South America, and Africa, spanning at least Aptian–Albian through Maastrichtian time. The new materials of Masiakasaurus increase character resolution within Abelisauroidea, identifying many formerly equivocal features as synapomorphies of the nodes Noasauridae, Abelisauridae, or Abelisauroidea. Unfortunately, the fragmentary nature of nearly all other noasaurids obviates any meaningful ingroup resolution, and as a result no particular evolutionary or biogeographic scenarios for the clade can presently be supported (or rejected) with confidence.

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