Field of Science

More on the Taxonomic Affinities of Isolated Leaf-Shaped Teeth from the Triassic

In the conclusions section of the recent paper by Kammerer et al., there is a worthwhile discussion regarding the taxonomic assignment of isolated Triassic teeth.  In the past some isolated leaf-shaped, denticulated teeth were considered apomorphic and used to erect discrete ornithischian dinosaur taxa (e.g., Hunt and Lucas, 1994; Heckert, 2004). Parker et al. (2005) argued that at least in Revueltosaurus callenderi, the teeth were apomorphic allowing assignment of non-dental material to the taxon. Irmis et al. (2007) discussed this in more detail, arguing the teeth of other purported ornithischians were not assignable to dinosaurs based solely on morphology and in fact could not be assigned to a more inclusive taxonomic level than Archosauromorpha.

However, in this recent paper Kammerer et al. note that many of these Triassic tooth taxa are very similar to the teeth of the traversodontid cynodonts Dadadon isaloi and Arctotraversodon plemmyridon. They especially note that the lower incisors of D. isaloi are very similar to the holotype teeth of Tecovasaurus murryi and the fourth upper incisor of D. isaloi has a similar morphology to Lucianosaurus wildi. Thus the characters that have been used to diagnose at least several of these 'tooth taxa' converge on other forms and are not autapomorphic. Although it would be tempting to use the teeth of Tecovasaurus and Lucianosaurus to suggest the further presence of cynodonts in the Triassic of the American southwest, we cannot discount the similarities of these teeth to archosaurian forms as well and therefore as noted by Kammerer et al., these isolated teeth can presently only be assigned to the level of Amniota  rather than Archosauriformes.


Heckert, A.B. 2004. Late Triassic microvertebrates from the lower Chinle Group (Otischalkian-Adamanian: Carnian), southwestern U. S. A. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 27:1-170.

Hunt, A. P., and S.G. Lucas. 1994. Ornithischian dinosaurs from the Upper Triassic of the United States. pp. 227–241 in In the Shadows of the Dinosaurs: Early Mesozoic Tetrapods (ed. N. C. Fraser & H.-D. Sues). Cambridge University Press.
Irmis, R. B., Parker, W. G., Nesbitt, S. J., and J. Liu. 2007. Early ornithischian dinosaurs: the Triassic record. Historical Biology 19:3-22.

Kammerer, C. F., Flynn, J. J., Ranivoharimanana, L., and A. R. Wyss. 2012. Ontogeny in the Malagasy traversodontid Dadadon isaloi and a reconsideration of its phylogenetic relationships. Fieldiana Life and Earth Sciences 5:112-125.

Parker, W.G., Irmis, R.B., Nesbitt, S.J., Martz, J.W., and L.S. Browne. 2005. The Late Triassic pseudosuchian Revueltosaurus callenderi and its implications for the diversity of early ornithischian dinosaurs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272:963-969.


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