Field of Science

Smok wawelski, a New Late Triassic Archosaur from Poland

Interesting critter if all the material belongs to the same animal (and I can't see any reason right now why it wouldn't). The broadly expanded basisphenoid appears to be particularily autapomorphic. Taxonomically I'm going to put my bet on a fairly derived paracrocodylomorph, especially because the supratemporal fossa incises the posterior margin of the frontal; however, the presence of a postfrontal suggests it is not a crocodylomorph. I'll refrain from plugging this taxon into the Nesbitt (2011) matrix as the authors clearly state that the phylogenetic relationships are part of Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki's PhD project.

I do have a question regarding the specific name. If the specific name intends "from Wawel Hill" should the correct name be Smok wawelensis or maybe S. wawelhillensis? As I have stated before I don't think it is the best idea for new taxon names to be published online in accepted manuscript form because the authors may decide to change the name or modify it before final publication.

Niedźwiedzki, G., Sulej, T., and J. Dzik. in press A large predatory archosaur from the Late Triassic of Poland. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. doi:10.4202/app.2010.0045

Abstract - We describe a new large predatory archosaur, Smok wawelski gen. et sp. nov., from the latest Triassic (latest Norian-early Rhaetian; approximately 205-200 Ma) of Lisowice (Lipie Śląskie clay-pit) in southern Poland. The length of the reconstructed skeleton is 5-6 m and that of the skull 50-60 cm, making S. wawelski larger than any other known predatory archosaur from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic of central Europe (including theropod dinosaurs and rauisuchian crurotarsans). The holotype braincase is associated with skull, pelvic and isolated limb-bones found in close proximity (within 30 m), and we regard them as belonging to the same individual. Large, apparently tridactyl tracks that occur in the same rock unit may have been left by animals of the same species. The highly autapomorphic braincase shows large attachment areas for hypertrophied protractor pterygoideus muscles on the lateral surface and a wide, funnel-like region between the basal tubera and basipterygoid processes on the ventral surface. The skeleton (cranial and postcranial) possesses some features similar to those in theropod dinosaurs and others to those in large crocodile-line archosaurs (rauisuchians), rendering phylogenetic placement of S. wawelski difficult at this time.


16 comments:

  1. In Polish, Wawelski would translate roughly as "of Wawel", or "from Wawel". And "smok" means "dragon". So, "dragon from Wawel".

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  2. "Wawel," in this case, is also short-hand for "Wawel Hill." It is not always necessary to completely transcribe the name of a place. I am actually more surprised that a Polish genitive -ski is being used in lieu of the Latin -ensis.

    What is perhaps more interesting, though, is the "genus." "Smok" is awfully similar to Tolkein's "Smaug," although the origins may differ: in Tolkein's case, he derived the work from the Germanic smugan "slide through a hole" while nodding to O.English smeag "worm," (the basis for Smeágol). I wonder if they are otherwise related.

    Even better, the whole name is a lift and drop from a name given to a legend of the area, the Smok Wawelski: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wawel_Dragon.

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  3. I would rather say "Dragon of Wawel" - he was kind of a ruler of the Wawel Hill
    (or simply Wawel Dragon - like in wikipedia).

    By the way - for english speaking - wawel is pronunciated vavel (a like in arm)

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  4. Mind you, I haven't seen the paper, and I'm not a professional, but the post-cranial reconstruction looks extremely like a herrerasaur. Some of that appears to be missing bones they inferred (such as the manus), but the pubis seems semi-retroverted as in Hererrasaurus.

    That said, the skull doesn't look particularly herrerasauran at all.

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  5. I was wondering the same thing as Jaime.

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  6. The "Smok Wawelski" is a creature from Polish folklore. "Smok Wawelski" is exactly how you would call the creature while speaking Polish. The name seems to be entirely Polish rather than Latin.

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  7. The Polish name "smok" (as well as its analogues in other Slavic languages) may be derived from the preslavic "sъmъkъ", which meaning is roughly equivalent to the Germanic "smaugan" ("slide", "slip through" or something like that).

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  8. I think the Herrerasaur-like body plan is due to the fact that the 'completeness' or whatever is basically redone over an older skeletal reconstruction of Herrerasaurus. If it was superimposed over a generic rauisuchian bodyplan, would you still think it looked Herrerasaurus like?

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  9. Thanks for the info/comments everyone.

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  10. Polish genitive -ski

    No, it's a masculine adjective-forming suffix. The masculine genitive is -a.

    I think the Herrerasaur-like body plan is due to the fact that the 'completeness' or whatever is basically redone over an older skeletal reconstruction of Herrerasaurus.

    Exactly. I don't know if Grzegorz still maintains that it's a dinosaur, but for a long time he did, even while other people were saying it's a rauisuchian.

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  11. There is no formal requirement regarding the correct formation of the specific epithet in a particular language. Few people know the classical languages to do this correctly nowadays. As Leszek noted the name is correctly formed in Polish.

    It would be useful to see the new taxon added to the Nesbitt data matrix. It is very unlikely that the Polish workers will do so as they come from a tradition that is opposed to cladistic methodology. Smok is not a dinosaur but rather a derived paracrocodylomorph.

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  12. I see what you guys mean now, having read the paper. I assumed looking at the reconstruction, that every bone/fragment not shown in black was in fact intact, but it looks as though some portions (particularly the skull and hips). are far more fragmentary than the reconstruction would suggest.

    Still, I wonder if the herrerasaur-style reconstruction is a hint at what Niedźwiedzki's phylogenic analysis of Smok will show.

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  13. It's great to see Smok published. The specimen is clearly one of the most important recent vertebrate discoveries from the European Triassic. And, I suspect continuing and lively debate over the anatomy and phylogeny of Smok as more work is done on the specimen. This is, after all, a short preliminary description.

    There have been some suggestions here and elsewhere that somebody should add Smok to Nesbitt's excellent basal archosaur cladistic matrix. Please, I would encourage everyone to hold back and let the research on Smok run its course. It is clear from the paper that Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki is working on the phylogeny of Smok as part of his thesis, and I do happen to know that cladistics will play a part in this. If anybody does add Smok to a phylogenetic analysis and posts this on a blog or elsewhere online, then this could jeopardize Grzegorz's thesis. So, I would encourage some patience and restraint.

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  14. I second Steve's call for restraint. As I noted in the original post the paper clearly states that the phylogenetic relationships are part of an ongoing PhD project.

    I'm also glad to see that Hans agrees with my derived paracrocodylomorph bet...

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  15. Karl Zimmerman: Still, I wonder if the herrerasaur-style reconstruction is a hint at what Niedźwiedzki's phylogenic analysis of Smok will show. - I don't think so. This reconstruction is published in popular media and scientific papers (e.g. Dzik et al. 2008, APP) since 2008, when the dinosaurian status of Smok seemed to be unquestionable (then it was suggested that it might be even a tetanuran).

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  16. nteresting critter if all the material belongs to the same animal (and I can't see any reason right now why it wouldn't). The broadly expanded basisphenoid appears to be particularily autapomorphic. evod starter kit

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