Pablo A. Gallina, Sebastián Apesteguía, Alejandro Haluza y Juan I. Canale
Diplodocids are by far the most emblematic sauropod dinosaurs. They are part of Diplodocoidea, a vast clade whose other members are well-known from Jurassic and Cretaceous strata in Africa, Europe, North and South America. However, Diplodocids were never certainly recognized from the Cretaceous or in any other southern land mass besides Africa. Here we report a new sauropod, Leikupal laticauda gen. et sp. nov., from the early Lower Cretaceous (Bajada Colorada Formation) of Neuquèn Province, Patagonia, Argentina. This taxon differs from any other sauropod by the presence of anterior caudal transverse process extremely developed with lateroventral expansions reinforced by robust dorsal and ventral bars, very robust centroprezygapophyseal lamina in anterior caudal vertebra and paired pneumatic fossae on the postzygapophyses in anterior-most caudal vertebra. The phylogenetic analyses support its position not only within Diplodocidae but also as a member of Diplodocinae, clustering together with the African form Tornieria, pushing the origin of Diplodocoidea to the Middle Jurassic or even earlier. The new discovery represents the first record of a diplodocid for South America and the stratigraphically youngest record of this clade anywhere.
Gallina PA, Apesteguıía S, Haluza A, Canale JI (2014) A Diplodocid Sauropod Survivor from the Early Cretaceous of South America. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97128. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097128