Pisanosaurus (/pɪsænəˈsɔːrəs/) is an extinct genus of primitive dinosauriform that lived approximately 228 to 216 million years ago during the latter part of the Triassic Period in what is now South America. It was a small, lightly-built, ground-dwelling herbivore, that could grow up to an estimated 1 m (3.3 ft) long. Only one species, the type, Pisanosaurus mertii, is known, based on a single partial skeleton discovered in the Ischigualasto Formation of the Ischigualasto-Villa Unión Basin in northwestern Argentina.
|Reconstruction of the skull, white bones are known, light grey bones were known from heavily eroded impressions|
The exact classification of Pisanosaurus has been the topic of debate by scientists for over 40 years; until 2017, the consensus was that Pisanosaurus is the oldest known ornithischian, part of a diverse group of dinosaurs which lived during nearly the entire span of the Mesozoic Era, but recently, some have begun to consider it a non-dinosaurian silesaurid.
Based on the known fossil elements from a partial skeleton, Pisanosaurus was a small, lightly built dinosauriform approximately 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in length. Its weight was between 2.27–9.1 kg (5–20 lb). These estimates vary due to the incompleteness of the holotype specimen PVL 2577. The orientation of the pubis is uncertain, with some skeletal reconstructions having it projecting down and forward (the propubic condition) similar to that of the majority of saurischian dinosaurs.
According to a redescription by José Bonaparte in 1976, Pisanosaurus has some distinctive characteristics. The acetabulum, the hip-joint, is open. The pedicels of the ilium are short, resulting in a low axially long acetabulum. The upper region of the ischium is wide, larger than that of the pubic bone. The metacarpals of the hand are apparently elongated, measuring about fifteen millimeters.
Pisanosaurus is known from a single fragmented skeleton discovered in 1962 by Galileo Juan Scaglia at the Agua de Las Catas locality in the Ischigualasto Formation, in La Rioja, Argentina. It is based on a specimen given the designation PVL 2577, which consists of a partial skull with a fragmentary right maxilla with teeth, and incomplete right mandibular ramus (lower jaw), six incomplete cervical vertebrae, seven incomplete dorsal vertebrae, molds of five sacral vertebrae, a rib and several rib fragments, a fragmentary right scapula, a coracoid, molds of a fragmentary ilium, ischium and pubic bone, an impression of three metacarpals, the complete femora, the right tibia, the right fibula, with an articulated astragalus and calcaneum, a tarsal element with a metatarsal, metatarsals III and IV, three phalanges from the third toe and five phalanges, among them the ungual, from the fourth toe, and an indeterminate long bone fragment.
The genus name Pisanosaurus means "Pisano’s lizard" and combines "Pisano" in honor of Argentine paleontologist Juan Arnaldo Pisano of La Plata Museum, with a Latin "saurus" from the Greek (σαύρα) meaning "lizard". Pisanosaurus was described and named by Argentine paleontologist Rodolfo Casamiquela in 1967. The type and only valid species known today is Pisanosaurus mertii. The specific name honors the late Araucanian naturalist Carlos Merti.
|Cladogram of basal Ornithischia after Butler et al. (2008), showing the position of Pisanosaurus as the earliest example of an ornithischian.|
Pisanosaurus is the type genus of the Pisanosauridae, a family erected by Casamiquela in the same paper which named Pisanosaurus. The family Pisanosauridae has fallen into disuse, as a 1976 study considered the group synonymous with the already named Heterodontosauridae.
Pisanosaurus has traditionally been classified as very basal within Ornithischia; the postcrania seem to lack any good ornithischian synapomorphy and it was even suggested by Paul Sereno in 1991 that the fossil is a chimera. However, recent studies suggest that the fossils belong to a single specimen.
Over the years, Pisanosaurus has been classified as a heterodontosaurid, a fabrosaurid, a hypsilophodont and has also been considered the earliest known ornithischian. A 2008 study placed Pisanosaurus outside of (and more basal than) Heterodontosauridae. In this study, Pisanosaurus is the earliest and most primitive ornithischian. This assignment is also supported by Norman et al. (2004), Langer et al. (2009) and Baron, Norman & Barrett (2017). Other primitive ornithischians include Eocursor, Trimucrodon, and possibly Fabrosaurus.
Contrastingly, a phylogenetic analysis conducted by Agnolin (2015) recovered Pisanosaurus as a possible non-dinosaurian member of Dinosauriformes related to the silesaurids. In 2017, it was again suggested that Pisanosaurus was a silesaurid.
The fossils of Pisanosaurus were discovered in the "Agua de las Catas" locality at the Ischigualasto Formation in La Rioja, Argentina. Originally dated to the Middle Triassic, this formation is now believed to belong to the Late Triassic Carnian stage, deposited approximately 228 to 216.5 million years ago. This specimen was collected by José Fernando Bonaparte, Rafael Herbst and the preparators Martín Vince and Scaglia in 1962, and is housed in the collection of the Laboratorio de Paleontologia de Vertebrados, Instituto "Miguel Lillo", in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina.
The Ischigualasto Formation was a volcanically active floodplain covered by forests, with a warm and humid climate, though subject to seasonal variations including strong rainfalls. Vegetation consisted of ferns, horsetails, and giant conifers, which formed highland forests along the banks of rivers. Herrerasaurus remains appear to have been the most common among the carnivores of the Ischigualasto Formation. Sereno (1993) noted that Pisanosaurus was found in "close association" with therapsids, rauisuchians, archosaurs, Saurosuchus and the dinosaurs Herrerasaurus and Eoraptor, all of whom lived in its paleoenvironment. Bonaparte (1976) postulated that Pisanosaurus played a role in a fauna dominated by therapsids. The large carnivore Herrerasaurus may have fed upon Pisanosaurus. Herbivores were represented by rhynchosaurs such as Hyperodapedon (a beaked reptile); aetosaurs (spiny armored reptiles); kannemeyeriid dicynodonts (stocky, front-heavy beaked quadrupedal animals) such as Ischigualastia; and traversodontids (somewhat similar in overall form to dicynodonts, but lacking beaks) such as Exaeretodon. These non-dinosaurian herbivores were much more abundant than early dinosaurs.
Averostra, or "bird snouts", is a clade that includes most theropod dinosaurs that have a promaxillary fenestra (fenestra promaxillaris), an extra opening in the front outer side of the maxilla, the bone that makes up the upper jaw. Two groups of averostrans, the Ceratosauria and the Orionides, survived into the Cretaceous period. When the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event occurred, ceratosaurians and two groups of orionideans within the clade Coelurosauria, the Tyrannosauroidea and Maniraptoriformes, were still extant. Only one subgroup of maniraptoriformes, Aves, survived the extinction event and persisted to the present day.Avetheropoda
Avetheropoda, or "bird theropods", is a clade that includes carnosaurians and coelurosaurs to the exclusion of other dinosaurs.Cerapoda
Cerapoda ("ceratopsians and ornithopods") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia.Dinosauriformes
Dinosauriformes is a clade of archosaurian reptiles that include the dinosaurs and their most immediate relatives. All dinosauriformes are distinguished by several features, such as shortened forelimbs and a partially to fully perforated acetabulum, the hole in the hip socket traditionally used to define dinosaurs. The oldest known member is Asilisaurus, dating to about 245 million years ago in the Anisian age of the middle Triassic period.Haya griva
Haya is an extinct genus of basal neornithischian dinosaur known from Mongolia.Jeholosauridae
Jeholosaurids were herbivorous neornithischian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period (Aptian - Santonian, with a possible Campanian record) of Asia. The family was first proposed by Han et al. in 2012. The jeholosaurids were defined as those ornithischians more closely related to Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis than to Hypsilophodon foxii, Iguanodon bernissartensis, Protoceratops andrewsi, Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, or Thescelosaurus neglectus. The Jeholosauridae includes the type genus Jeholosaurus and Yueosaurus.Jingshanosaurus
Jingshanosaurus (meaning "Jingshan lizard") is a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the early Jurassic period.Manidens
Manidens is a genus of heterodontosaurid dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Patagonia. Fossils have been found in the Cañadón Asfalto Formation in Chubut Province, Argentina, dating to the Bajocian.Melanorosauridae
The Melanorosauridae were a family of sauropodomorph dinosaurs which lived during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. The name Melanorosauridae was first coined by Friedrich von Huene in 1929. Huene assigned several families of dinosaurs to the infraorder "Prosauropoda": the Anchisauridae, the Plateosauridae, the Thecodontosauridae, and the Melanorosauridae. Since then, these families have undergone numerous revisions. Galton and Upchurch (2004) considered Camelotia, Lessemsaurus, and Melanorosaurus members of the family Melanorosauridae. A more recent study by Yates (2007) indicates that the melanorosaurids were instead early sauropods.Neornithischia
Neornithischia ("new ornithischians") is a clade of the dinosaur order Ornithischia. They are the sister group of the Thyreophora within the clade Genasauria. Neornithischians are united by having a thicker layer of asymmetrical enamel on the inside of their lower teeth. The teeth wore unevenly with chewing and developed sharp ridges that allowed neornithischians to break down tougher plant food than other dinosaurs. Neornithischians include a variety of basal forms historically known as "hypsilophodonts", including the Parksosauridae; in addition, there are derived forms classified in the groups Marginocephalia and Ornithopoda. The former includes clades Pachycephalosauria and Ceratopsia, while the latter typically includes Hypsilophodon and the more derived Iguanodontia.Neotheropoda
Neotheropoda (meaning "new theropods") is a clade that includes coelophysoids and more advanced theropod dinosaurs, and the only group of theropods who survived the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Yet all of the neotheropods became extinct during the early Jurassic period except for Averostra.Orionides
Orionides is a clade of tetanuran theropod dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic to the Present. The clade includes most theropod dinosaurs, including birds.Ornithischia
Ornithischia () is an extinct clade of mainly herbivorous dinosaurs characterized by a pelvic structure similar to that of birds. The name Ornithischia, or "bird-hipped", reflects this similarity and is derived from the Greek stem ornith- (ὀρνιθ-), meaning "of a bird", and ischion (ἴσχιον), plural ischia, meaning "hip joint". However, birds are only distantly related to this group as birds are theropod dinosaurs.Ornithischians with well known anatomical adaptations include the ceratopsians or "horn-faced" dinosaurs (e.g. Triceratops), armored dinosaurs (Thyreophora) such as stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, pachycephalosaurids and the ornithopods. There is strong evidence that certain groups of ornithischians lived in herds, often segregated by age group, with juveniles forming their own flocks separate from adults. Some were at least partially covered in filamentous (hair- or feather- like) pelts, and there is much debate over whether these filaments found in specimens of Tianyulong, Psittacosaurus, and Kulindadromeus may have been primitive feathers.Riojasauridae
Riojasauridae is a family of sauropod-like dinosaurs from the Upper Triassic. It is known primarily from the genera Riojasaurus and Eucnemesaurus. Sites containing Riojasauridae include the Lower Elliot Formation of Orange Free State, South Africa (where fossils of Eucnemesaurus have been found), and Ischigualasto, in La Rioja Province, Argentina ( where fossils of Riojasaurus have been recovered).Sanjuansaurus
Sanjuansaurus ("San Juan Province lizard") is a genus of herrerasaurid dinosaur from the Late Triassic (Carnian) Cancha de Bochas and La Peña Members of the Ischigualasto Formation of the Ischigualasto-Villa Unión Basin in northwestern Argentina.Silesauridae
Silesauridae is an extinct clade of Triassic dinosauriformes consisting of the closest known relatives of dinosaurs. As indicated by coprolite contents, some silesaurids such as Silesaurus may have been insectivorous, feeding selectively on small beetles and other arthropods.Soumyasaurus
Soumyasaurus is a small silesaurid dinosauriform from the Late Triassic (Norian) Cooper Canyon Formation of western Texas.Yueosaurus
Yueosaurus is an extinct genus of basal ornithopod dinosaur known from Zhejiang Province, China.