Wednesday, May 24, 2023

[Paleontology • 2023] Platytholus clemensi • A New pachycephalosaurid (Ornithischia: Pachycephalosauridae) from the Hell Creek Formation, Garfield County, Montana, U.S.A.

Platytholus clemensi 
Horner, Goodwin & Evans, 2023   

A partial skull of a pachycephalosaurid from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, Montana, is interpreted as a new taxon, Platytholus clemensi gen. et sp. nov. MOR 2915 does not fit into an ontogenetic continuum of known pachycephalosaurids from the Hell Creek Formation, Montana, and contemporaneous sediments from the Western Interior. Comparisons to known ontogimorphs of Sphaerotholus and Pachycephalosaurus preclude including this specimen into an ontogenetic series of either taxon. We hypothesize that MOR 2915 is a new species based on a relatively low, broad dome at this advanced ontogenetic age that is neither round nor oval in dorsal view, distinct but fused lateral cranial elements fully incorporated into the dome without any dorsal lobe differentiation, and individual tab-like tubercle ornamentation dorsolaterally. Phylogenetic analysis posits that Platytholus clemensi is a Prenocephale-grade taxon deeply nested within Pachycephalosaurinae, but it is not a member of Pachycephalosaurini. Platytholus clemensi is intermediate in size between the other contemporaneous pachycephalosaurids in the Hell Creek Formation and suggests a diverse set of taxa-partitioned ecological niches by body size. We confirm a well organized, major internal vascular network using high resolution computed tomography. Foramina present on the orbital roofs indicate these canals penetrated the entire ceiling of the orbits within the frontal and supraorbital bones. Abundant neurovascular canals passing through the dome to the ectocranial surface indicate a keratinous structure of some kind, possibly with a vertical structural framework, was present on the dome. We review the history of the head-butting hypothesis and associated behavioral implications.

An artist's depiction of Platytholus clemensi a newly described species of pachycephalosaur.
The skull is dome-shaped, but UC Berkeley and Chapman University paleontologists believe it was covered with bristles of keratin (purple) that may have been even more elaborate than depicted here. The bony knobs and spikes (yellow) are characteristic of pachycephalosaurs and many other dinosaurs.
Artwork: Jack Horner

 Platytholus clemensi gen. et sp. nov. 

John R. Horner, Mark B. Goodwin and David C. Evans. 2023. A New pachycephalosaurid from the Hell Creek Formation, Garfield County, Montana, U.S.A. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. e2190369. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2023.2190369