Tuesday, July 19, 2016

[Paleontology • 2016] Gualicho shinyae • An Unusual New Theropod with a Didactyl Manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina

Gualicho shinyae 
Apesteguía, Smith, Valieri & Makovicky, 2016   DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157793 


Late Cretaceous terrestrial strata of the Neuquén Basin, northern Patagonia, Argentina have yielded a rich fauna of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. The diversity of saurischian dinosaurs is particularly high, especially in the late Cenomanian-early Turonian Huincul Formation, which has yielded specimens of rebacchisaurid and titanosaurian sauropods, and abelisaurid and carcharodontosaurid theropods. Continued sampling is adding to the known vertebrate diversity of this unit.

Methodology/ Principal Findings
A new, partially articulated mid-sized theropod was found in rocks from the Huincul Formation. It exhibits a unique combination of traits that distinguish it from other known theropods justifying erection of a new taxon, Gualicho shinyae gen. et sp. nov. Gualicho possesses a didactyl manus with the third digit reduced to a metacarpal splint reminiscent of tyrannosaurids, but both phylogenetic and multivariate analyses indicate that didactyly is convergent in these groups. Derived characters of the scapula, femur, and fibula supports the new theropod as the sister taxon of the nearly coeval African theropod Deltadromeus and as a neovenatorid carcharodontosaurian. A number of these features are independently present in ceratosaurs, and Gualicho exhibits an unusual mosaic of ceratosaurian and tetanuran synapomorphies distributed throughout the skeleton.

Conclusions/ Significance
Gualicho shinyae gen. et sp. nov. increases the known theropod diversity of the Huincul Formation and also represents the first likely neovenatorid from this unit. It is the most basal tetatanuran to exhibit common patterns of digit III reduction that evolved independently in a number of other tetanuran lineages. A close relationship with Deltadromaeus from the Kem Kem beds of Niger adds to the already considerable biogeographic similarity between the Huincul Formation and coeval rock units in North Africa.

a pair of Gualicho dinosaurs pursuing prey.
illustration: Jorge Gonzalez and Pablo Lara 

Systematic paleontology



Gualicho shinyae gen. et sp. nov. 
(replaces Nototyrannus violantei Anonymous, 2011, nomen nudum)

Holotype: MPCN PV 0001, comprising four articulated centra from the dorsal vertebral column, an articulated gastral basket, a section of the tail distal to the transition point, the left scapulocoracoid and forelimb, the distal end of both pubes including the pubic boot, and parts of both hind limbs (Fig 1A). Much of the specimen had been lost to erosion when discovered, but the preserved parts including the forelimb, dorsal vertebrae, gastralia, and feet were articulated. Specimen measurements are provided in Table 1.

 Skeletal reconstruction of Gualicho shinyae showing recovered elements in white and missing elements in grey shading.
Artwork by J. González. 

Etymology: Gualicho, a Spanish name derived from the Gennaken (günün-a-künna or northern Tehuelche language) watsiltsüm, for a goddess who was considered the owner of animals and later, following the introduction of Christianity, reinterpreted as a demonic entity. She is now considered a source of misfortune by rural settlers (gauchos) of the Southern Cone. The name was chosen to reflect the difficult circumstances surrounding the discovery and study of the specimen, and its contentious history following excavation. The specific name honors Ms. Akiko Shinya, Chief Fossil Preparator at the Field Museum, for her many contributions to paleontology including discovery of the holotype of Gualicho on February 13th, 2007 (see S1 Fig).

Sebastián Apesteguía, Nathan D. Smith, Rubén Juárez Valieri and Peter J. Makovicky. 2016. An Unusual New Theropod with a Didactyl Manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina. PLoS ONE. 11(7): e0157793.   DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157793