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Abelisauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Jurassic of Portugal and dentition-based phylogeny as a contribution for the identification of isolated theropod teeth

Christophe Hendrickx, Octávio Mateus


Theropod dinosaurs form a highly diversified clade, and their teeth are some of the most common components of the Mesozoic dinosaur fossil record. This is the case in the Lourinhã Formation (Late Jurassic, Kimmeridgian-Tithonian) of Portugal, where theropod teeth are particularly abundant and diverse. Four isolated theropod teeth are here described and identified based on morphometric and anatomical data. They are included in a cladistic analysis performed on a data matrix of 141 dentition-based characters coded in 60 taxa, as well as a supermatrix combining our dataset with six recent datamatrices based on the whole theropod skeleton. The consensus tree resulting from the dentition-based data matrix reveals that theropod teeth provide reliable data for identification at approximately family level. Therefore, phylogenetic methods will help identifying theropod teeth with more confidence in the future. Although dental characters do not reliably indicate relationships among higher clades of theropods, they demonstrate interesting patterns of homoplasy suggesting dietary convergence in (1) alvarezsauroids, therizinosaurs and troodontids; (2) coelophysoids and spinosaurids; (3) compsognathids and dromaeosaurids; and (4) ceratosaurids, allosauroids and megalosaurids.

        Based on morphometric and cladistic analyses, the biggest tooth from Lourinhã is referred to a mesial crown of the megalosaurid Torvosaurus tanneri, due to the elliptical cross section of the crown base, the large size and elongation of the crown, medially positioned mesial and distal carinae, and the coarse denticles. The smallest tooth is identified as Richardoestesia, and as a close relative of R. gilmorei based on the weak constriction between crown and root, the “eight-shaped” outline of the base crown and, on the distal carina, the average of ten symmetrically rounded denticles per mm, as well as a subequal number of denticles basally and at mid-crown. Finally, the two medium-sized teeth belong to the same taxon and exhibit pronounced interdenticular sulci between distal denticles, hooked distal denticles for one of them, an irregular enamel texture, and a straight distal margin, a combination of features only observed in abelisaurids. They provide the first record of Abelisauridae in the Jurassic of Laurasia and one of the oldest records of this clade in the world, suggesting a possible radiation of Abelisauridae in Europe well before the Upper Cretaceous.


Abelisauridae, Megalosauridae, Torvosaurus, Richardoestesia, teeth, cladistic, Theropoda, Portugal, Late Jurassic

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