Scelidosaurus harrisonii from the Early Jurassic of Dorset, England: cranial anatomy

Norman, David B. (2019) Scelidosaurus harrisonii from the Early Jurassic of Dorset, England: cranial anatomy. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 188 (1). pp. 1-81. ISSN 0024-4082 DOI

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Scelidosaurus harrisonii is an early (Late Sinemurian) armoured ornithischian dinosaur whose remains have, to date, only been recovered from a restricted location on the south coast of Dorset (Charmouth), England. This dinosaur has been known since 1859, but only on the basis of a partial description found in two articles published in the early 1860s by Richard Owen. The original material, discovered in 1858, comprised the majority of the skull and its associated postcranial skeleton, and represents the first ever, more or less complete dinosaur discovered. In addition to the original material, a number of further discoveries have been made at Charmouth; these latter supplement the information that can be gleaned from the original specimen. This article describes the skull of Scelidosaurus. The external surface of individual skull bones in ontogenetically relatively mature individuals displays exostoses, a patina of fibrous or granular-textured bone that anchored an external shielding of keratinous scales. There is a small, edentulous rostral beak, behind which is found a row of five heterodont premaxillary teeth. There is a minimum of 22 maxillary teeth and 27 dentary teeth in jaws of the largest well-preserved individuals known to date. Both dentitions (upper and lower) are bowed medially and are sinuous longitudinally. Maxillary and dentary crowns are tilted lingually on their roots, trapezoidal in outline and have crenellate (coarsely denticulate) margins. Adjacent crowns of teeth have mesiodistally (anteroposteriorly) expanded bases that overlap slightly and are consequently arranged en echelon. The dentitions are flanked by deep cheek pouches. Tooth abrasion is usually discontinuous along the dentition. In one individual nearly all teeth seem to be fully emerged and there is little evidence of abrasion. There is no physical evidence of a predentary, but the presence of this (typically ornithischian) element may be inferred from the structure of the symphyseal region of the dentary. The external narial and antorbital fenestrae are comparatively small, whereas the orbit and temporal fenestrae are large and open. A sclerotic ring was undoubtedly present and supported the eyeball, but it is too poorly preserved to allow it to be reconstructed with accuracy. A prominent supraorbital brow ridge overhangs the orbit. There are three osteoderms: palpebral, middle supraorbital and posterior supraorbital, sutured to the dorsal margin of the orbit. The occiput provides an area for attachment of a pair of curved, keratin-sheathed, osteodermal horns. Epistyloid bones project from the ventrolateral region of the braincase; their distal ends flank the anterolateral region of the neck. Rugose facets on either side of the basioccipital are suggested to have provided attachment sites for the epistyloid bones. Internally, the skull has a deeply vaulted snout and the nasal chambers are roofed by what are here named epivomer bones that appear to have been sutured to the dorsolateral edges of the vomers. Unusually, among dinosaurs generally, an epipterygoid is preserved attached to the dorsolateral surface of the pterygoid; there is no obvious point of articulation for the epipterygoid against the lateral wall of the braincase. A deep pit on the posterior surface of the quadrate of an immature specimen is suggestive of the existence of a remnant of cranial pneumatism. This pit becomes occluded in larger, more mature specimens.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2019AREP; IA76
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume: 188
Page Range: pp. 1-81
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2020 21:16
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2021 16:53

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