First spinosaurid dinosaur from Australia and the cosmopolitanism of Cretaceous dinosaur faunas

Paul M. Barrett, Roger B. J. Benson, Thomas H. Rich, Patricia Vickers-Rich

Abstract

A cervical vertebra from the Early Cretaceous of Victoria represents the first Australian spinosaurid theropod dinosaur. This discovery significantly extends the geographical range of spinosaurids, suggesting that the clade obtained a near-global distribution before the onset of Pangaean fragmentation. The combined presence of spinosaurid, neovenatorid, tyrannosauroid and dromaeosaurid theropods in the Australian Cretaceous undermines previous suggestions that the dinosaur fauna of this region was either largely endemic or predominantly ‘Gondwanan’ in composition. Many lineages are well-represented in both Laurasia and Gondwana, and these observations suggest that Early–‘middle’ Cretaceous theropod clades possessed more cosmopolitan distributions than assumed previously, and that caution is necessary when attempting to establish palaeobiogeographic patterns on the basis of a patchily distributed fossil record.

  • Received May 3, 2011.
  • Accepted May 26, 2011.
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