A new Heterodontosaurus specimen elucidates the unique ventilatory macroevolution of ornithischian dinosaurs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Viktor Radermacher
  • Vincent Fernandez
  • Emma Schachner
  • Emese Bordy
  • Michael Hudgins
  • William de Klerk
  • Kimberley Chapelle
  • Jonah Choiniere

Colleges, School and Institutes


Ornithischian dinosaurs were ecologically prominent herbivores of the Mesozoic Era that achieved a global distribution by the onset of the Cretaceous. The ornithischian body plan is aberrant relative to other ornithodiran clades, and crucial details of their early evolution remain obscure. We present a new, fully articulated skeleton of the early branching ornithischian Heterodontosaurus tucki. Phase-contrast enhanced synchrotron data of this new specimen reveal a suite of novel postcranial features unknown in any other ornithischian, with implications for the early evolution of the group. These features include a large, anteriorly projecting sternum; bizarre, paddle-shaped sternal ribs; and a full gastral basket – the first recovered in Ornithischia. These unusual anatomical traits provide key information on the evolution of the ornithischian body plan and suggest functional shifts in the ventilatory apparatus occurred close to the base of the clade. We complement these anatomical data with a quantitative analysis of ornithischian pelvic architecture, which allows us to make a specific, stepwise hypothesis for their ventilatory evolution.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere66036
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021