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Title: The origin and early evolution of the Dinosauria
Author: Baron, Matthew Grant
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 9009
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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For 130 years dinosaurs have been divided into two distinct clades – Ornithischia and Saurischia. This dissertation looks at the earliest evolution of the clade Dinosauria by focusing upon the interrelationships of the major subsidiary clades within it. It does this following examination, comparison and description of early dinosaur material, and by utilising modern phylogenetic analysis techniques, to rigorously and objectively test the fundamental groupings within the clade Dinosauria using a newly compiled dataset of early dinosaurs and other dinosauromorphs (= close dinosaur relatives). The current consensus on how the principal clades within Dinosauria (Theropoda, Sauropodomorpha and Ornithischia) are related to one another is challenged by the results of these analyses. This study finds, for the first time, a sister-group relationship between Ornithischia and Theropoda, here termed Ornithoscelida. Consequently, a new definition for Dinosauria is presented, as the historic definition would exclude all members of Sauropodomorpha from the clade. As well as this, I propose revisions to the definitions of each of the principal dinosaurian sub-divisions and propose a new timeframe and geographic setting for the origin of Dinosauria. These new hypotheses force re-evaluations of early dinosaur cladogenesis and character evolution, suggest the independent acquisition of hypercarnivory in multiple dinosaur groups and offers an explanation for many of the anatomical features previously regarded as striking convergences between theropods and early ornithischians. As well as presenting new anatomical data on many early dinosaurs and dinosauromorphs, including a comprehensive re-description of the postcranial anatomy of Lesothosaurus diagnosticus (Chapter 2), and a new anatomical dataset of early dinosaurs (the largest ever compiled), this thesis goes on to implement the new dataset to investigate a number of important outstanding questions about early dinosaur evolution and provides new lines of enquiry for future workers to pursue. The results of this thesis reveal the oldest known members of the dinosaurian clades Theropoda and Sauropodomorpha (Chapter 6), as well as a new clade within Ornithischia; a taxon previously thought to represent a derived theropod has been recovered as a potential ‘missing link’ between theropods and ornithischians using the new dataset. This work now provides a unique tool for the assessment of the phylogenetic affinities of early dinosaurs and dinosauromorphs and, once published, will hopefully become the benchmark dataset for palaeontologists working in this area.
Supervisor: Norman, David Bruce ; Barrett, Paul Michael Sponsor: NERC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Dinosaur ; Phylogeny ; Anatomy ; Systematics ; Taxonomy ; Triassic ; Jurassic ; Cretaceous ; Mesozoic ; Ornithischia ; Saurischia ; Theropoda ; Ornithoscelida ; Sauropodomorpha ; Silesauridae ; Pterosauria ; Lesothosaurus ; Stormbergia ; South Africa ; Lesotho