Rubén D. F. Martínez, Matthew C. Lamanna, Fernando E. Novas, Ryan C. Ridgely, Gabriel A. Casal, Javier E. Martínez, Javier R. Vita & Lawrence M. Witmer

We describe Sarmientosaurus musacchioi gen. et sp. nov., a titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian - Turonian) Lower Member of the Bajo Barreal Formation of southern Chubut Province in central Patagonia, Argentina. The holotypic and only known specimen consists of an articulated, virtually complete skull and part of the cranial and middle cervical series. Sarmientosaurus exhibits the following distinctive features that we interpret as autapomorphies: (1) maximum diameter of orbit nearly 40% rostrocaudal length of cranium; (2) complex maxilla-lacrimal articulation, in which the lacrimal clasps the ascending ramus of the maxilla; (3) medial edge of caudal sector of maxillary ascending ramus bordering bony nasal aperture with low but distinct ridge; (4) ‘tongue-like’ ventral process of quadratojugal that overlaps quadrate caudally; (5) separate foramina for all three branches of the trigeminal nerve; (6) absence of median venous canal connecting infundibular region to ventral part of brainstem; (7) subvertical premaxillary, procumbent maxillary, and recumbent dentary teeth; (8) cervical vertebrae with ‘strut-like’ centroprezygapophyseal laminae; (9) extremely elongate and slender ossified tendon positioned ventrolateral to cervical vertebrae and ribs. The cranial endocast of Sarmientosaurus preserves some of the most complete information obtained to date regarding the brain and sensory systems of sauropods. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the new taxon as a basal member of Lithostrotia, as the most plesiomorphic titanosaurian to be preserved with a complete skull. Sarmientosaurus provides a wealth of new cranial evidence that reaffirms the close relationship of titanosaurs to Brachiosauridae. Moreover, the presence of the relatively derived lithostrotian Tapuiasaurus in Aptian deposits indicates that the new Patagonian genus represents a ‘ghost lineage’ with a comparatively plesiomorphic craniodental form, the evolutionary history of which is missing for at least 13 million years of the Cretaceous. The skull anatomy of Sarmientosaurus suggests that multiple titanosaurian species with dissimilar cranial structures coexisted in the early Late Cretaceous of southern South America. Furthermore, the new taxon possesses a number of distinctive morphologies such as the ossified cervical tendon, extremely pneumatized cervical vertebrae, and a habitually downward facing snout that have rarely, if ever, been documented in other titanosaurs, thus broadening our understanding of the anatomical diversity of this remarkable sauropod clade. The latter two features were convergently acquired by at least one penecontemporaneous diplodocoid, and may represent mutual specializations for consuming low-growing vegetation.

Martínez RDF, Lamanna MC, Novas FE, Ridgely RC, Casal GA, Martínez JE, et al. (2016) A Basal Lithostrotian Titanosaur (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) with a Complete Skull: Implications for the Evolution and Paleobiology of Titanosauria. PloS ONE 11(4): e0151661. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0151661

Ricardo N. Martínez, Cecilia Apaldetti, Gustavo A. Correa, And Diego Abelín

The early evolution of Ornithodira the clade including pterosaurs and dinosaurs is poorly known. Until a decade ago, the basal radiation of Dinosauromorpha, the clade including dinosaurs and birds, was poorly understood because of the poor fossil record restricted to specimens known from the Ladinian Chañares Formation in Argentina. Over the last years the discovery of several non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs dramatically expanded this record and also demonstrated that this group –previously restricted to de Middle Triassic survived at least well into the Norian. Although Norian non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs have been reported from several regions around the world, the only known Norian non-dinosauriform dinosauromorphs Dromomeron romeri Irmis, Nesbitt, Padian, Smith, Turner, Woody, and Downs and Dromomeron gregorii Nesbitt, Irmis, Parker, Smith, Turner, and Rowe come from North America. We report here the first record from the Southern Hemisphere of a non-dinosauriform dinosauromorph, Dromomeron gigas sp. nov., from the Norian Quebrada del Barro Formation, northwestern Argentina. A phylogenetic analysis recovers Dromomeron gigas nested into the monophyletic group Lagerpetidae, and as the sister taxon to Dromomeron romeri. The inclusion of D. gigas within Lagerpetidae suggests that body size increased in this lineage over time, as was previously demonstrated for Dinosauriformes as a whole, and that lagerpetids reached a larger size than previously thought. Finally, the new finding provides new information on the basal radiation of Dinosauromorpha constituting the first record of a Norian association of dinosaurs with non-dinosauriform dinosauromorphs outside North America.

Ricardo N. Martínez, Cecilia Apaldetti, Gustavo A. Correa, Diego Abelín (2016). A Norian lagerpetid dinosauromorph from the Quebrada del Barro Formation, northwestern Argentina. Ameghiniana 53: 1–13.