Field of Science

New Data on Small Theropod Footprints from Massachusetts

Dalman. S. G. 2012. New Data on Small Theropod Footprints from the Early Jurassic (Hettangian) Hartford Basin of Massachusetts, United States. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 53:333-353. doi:

Abstract - A Portland Formation Lower Jurassic (Hettangian) dinosaur tracksite in Granby, Massachusetts, USA, has yielded a diverse dinosaur footprint assemblage. The tracksite preserves 140 theropod dinosaur footprints, ranging in length from 15 to 35 cm; the ichnofauna includes Anchisauripus, Eubrontes, Grallator and other extremely small theropod dinosaur footprints. The small tracks are compared with similar ichnites from the Lower Jurassic of western North America and central Poland. The small theropod footprints, which are described in detail, show some resemblance to the poorly known ichnogenus Stenonyx (Lull, 1904), which is considered an invalid ichnotaxon by many other workers. The footprints exhibit a distinct morphology of the metatarsophalangeal area, suggesting that these small ichnites are closely related to Kayentapus and Grallator. These small tracks are the first reported from the Hartford Basin of Granby, Massachusetts.

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.


Ontogeny of the Malagasy Traversodontid Dadadon isaloi

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. doi:

Abstract - New craniodental material of the traversodontid Dadadon isaloi from Middle/Upper Triassic basal “Isalo II” beds of southwestern Madagascar is described. These specimens reveal several new autapomorphies of Dadadon, including paired foramina on the frontal near the anterior border of the postorbital and lower incisors with denticulated distal margins. The new material covers a broad size range, providing the first information on ontogeny in Dadadon. Larger (presumably older) specimens of Dadadon isaloi have more postcanine teeth, relatively longer, narrower snouts, and a higher degree of cranial ornamentation than smaller specimens. Postcanine replacement in Dadadon was similar to that of other traversodontids: new teeth erupted at the posterior end of the postcanine tooth row and moved forward. Using information from the new specimens, the position of Dadadon was tested in a new phylogenetic analysis of traversodontids. In the new analysis, Dadadon is strongly supported as a member of a clade also including the South American taxa Massetognathus and Santacruzodon, here named Massetognathinae subfam. nov. This clade is diagnosed by the presence of denticulated lower incisors, relatively small canines, three cusps in the labial margin of the upper postcanines, and low, flat skulls. Massetognathinae is the sister-group of Gomphodontosuchinae, which includes Gomphodontosuchus, Menadon, Protuberum, Exaeretodon, and Scalenodontoides. The Laurasian traversodontids (Arctotraversodon, Boreogomphodon, and Nanogomphodon) form a clade that is the sister-taxon of Massetognathinae + Gomphodontosuchinae. Denticulated incisors evolved multiple times in traversodontid evolution (in massetognathines and Arctotraversodon), and thus this group represents another possibility (besides various archosauromorphs) to be considered when attempting to identify isolated Triassic teeth with denticulated carinae lacking cingula.

Biomechanical Analysis of Triassic Cynodonts from Madagascar

Ranivoharimanana, L. 2012. Analyse biomécanique masticatrice chez des traversodontidés eucynodontes du Trias de Madagascar. [Biomechanical analysis of the jaw apparatus in eucynodont traversodontids from the Triassic of Madagascar]. Geodiversitas 34: 505–515.

Abstract - Mandible biomechanics analysis cannot take place without the understanding of the development degree and the arrangement pattern of the adductor muscles. In the non mammalian cynodonts, the temporal and the superficial masseter muscles play a primordial role in the lower jaw motion during the food processing. They constitute the key elements of this analysis. Previous studies on non mammalian cynodonts including Dadadon isaloi Flynn, Parrish, Rakotosamimanana, Simpson & Wyss, 1999 and Menadon besairiei Flynn, Parrish, Rakotosamimanana, Simpson & Wyss, 1999 demonstrated the realization, by these animals, of a complex dynamic occlusion of the lower and superior postcanine teeth. The consideration of the bite point as second occlusal fulcrum equal in status to the cranio-mandibular joint is the basis of the bifulcral model. This methodology allows: 1) to quantify the resistance opposed by food at the level of the occlusal site; and 2) to highlight a positive net vertical load, of compressive nature, acting to the level of the cranio-mandibular joint during the interactivity of the elevator muscles, i.e. during mastication.
RÉSUMÉ - L'analyse de la biomécanique de la mandibule ne peut s'effectuer sans la compréhension du degré de développement et du type d'arrangement des muscles adducteurs. Chez les cynodontes non mammaliens, le muscle temporal et le masséter superficiel jouent un rôle primordial dans les mouvements de la mâchoire inférieure lors de la transformation alimentaire. Ils constituent ainsi les éléments clés de cette analyse. Des études antérieures sur des cynodontes non mammaliens dont Dadadon isaloi Flynn, Parrish, Rakotosamimanana, Simpson & Wyss, 1999 et Menadon besairiei Flynn, Parrish, Rakotosamimanana, Simpson & Wyss, 1999, ont démontré la réalisation, par ces animaux, d'une occlusion dynamique complexe des dents postcanines, inférieures et supérieures. La considération du point de morsure comme second point d'appui au même titre que l'articulation crânio-mandibulaire est le fondement même du système à double leviers. Cette méthodologie a permis de: 1) quantifier la résistance opposée par la nourriture au niveau du site occlusal; et 2) mettre en évidence l'existence d'une charge verticale nette positive, de nature compressive agissant au niveau de l'articulation crânio-mandibulaire chez Dadadon isaloi et Menadon besairiei durant l'interactivité des muscles élévateurs au cours de la mastication.

Early Triassic Ichnoassemblages of Wyoming

This new paper suggests the presence of dinosauromorph (cf. Rotodactylus) and turtle-like (cf. Chelonipus) trackmakers from the Lower Triassic of Wyoming.

Lovelace, D. M., and S. D. Lovelace. 2012. Paleoenvironments and paleoecology of a Lower Triassic invertebrate and vertebrate ichnoassemblage from the Red Peak Formation (Chugwater Group), central Wyoming. Palaios 27:636-657. doi: 10.2110/​palo.2012.p12-011r

Abstract - The Lower Triassic Red Peak Formation of the Chugwater Group has long been considered to have an extremely poor paleontological record, although the cause for the apparent dearth of fossils has yet to be been determined. During the course of fieldwork in central Wyoming numerous vertebrate and invertebrate ichnogenera (n ≥ 11) were observed. Vertebrate tracks and trackways representative of dinosauromorph, archosaur, lepidosaur, and testudinate trackmakers were found (cf. Rotodactylus, Chirotherium barthii, Rhynchosauroides, and cf. Chelonipus respectively). An invertebrate ichnoassemblage composed of at least 6 ichnogenera consistent with the Scoyenia ichnofacies were also found (e.g., Diplichnites, Lockeia, Fuersichnus communis, Palaeophycus striatus, cf. Scoyenia, and cf. Scolicia). The majority of these tracks and traces were found in the upper platy facies (upper 10–20 m of the Red Peak Formation), which is thought to be no younger than upper Spathian in age. Sedimentary structures, architectural elements, and lateral stratigraphic relationships support the interpretation of floodplain, fluvial, and lacustrine deposition for the upper platy facies in central Wyoming. The Red Peak Formation vertebrate and invertebrate ichnoassemblages, along with their associated depositional environments, are consistent with a fluviolacustrine (continental) setting comparable to those described from Lower to Middle Triassic strata with a Pangean distribution, including the Moenkopi Formation in the southwestern United States. This ichnoassemblage provides the first opportunity to observe paleoecological diversity and associated paleoenvironments within the Lower Triassic of the Chugwater Group.

New Triassic Animal Video Clips (Museum in a Minute) from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science has released a bunch of short, one minute video clips on a variety of fossil animals. I've linked a few of the Triassic-themed ones below. I think this is a great idea.



What is a Metoposaur?