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The last of the dinosaur titans: a new sauropod from Madagascar


The Titanosauria, the last surviving group of the giant sauropod dinosaurs, attained a near-global distribution by the close of the Cretaceous period (65 Myr ago). With the exception of a few new discoveries in Argentina1,2,3, most titanosaurs are known only from fragmentary postcranial skeletons and rare, isolated skull elements4,5,6,7,8,9. Here we describe the most complete titanosaur yet discovered. Rapetosaurus krausei gen. et sp. nov., from the Maevarano Formation of Madagascar, provides a view of titanosaur anatomy from head to tail. A total-evidence phylogenetic analysis supports a close relationship between brachiosaurids and titanosaurs (Titanosauriformes10,11,12,13). The inclusion of cranial data from Rapetosaurus also lays to rest questions concerning the phylogeny of the enigmatic Mongolian genera Nemegtosaurus and Quaesitosaurus14,15. In spite of their elongated, diplodocoid-like skulls, all three taxa are now firmly nested within Titanosauria.

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Figure 1: Rapetosaurus krausei from the Upper Cretaceous Maevarano Formation of Madagascar.
Figure 2: Rapetosaurus krausei cranial elements.
Figure 3: Rapetosaurus krausei postcranial elements, all from referred juvenile skeleton (FMNH PR 2209).
Figure 4: Cladogram showing phylogenetic position of Rapetosaurus krausei based on strict consensus of the two most parsimonious trees (447 steps; consistency index = 0.5481; rentention index = 0.6189) generated by a branch and bound search in PAUP* (v.4.0b2a)31.


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‘Misaotra betsika’ to the villagers of Berivotra, Madagascar. M. Hallet provided the illustrations and M. Stewart and T. Ready took the photographs. Thanks to R. Rogers, D. Krause, M. O'Leary, R. Coria and P. Upchurch for comments and discussion. Funding was provided by NSF, National Geographic Society, Jurassic Foundation, GSA and the Gabor Inke Graduate Student Fellowship.

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Curry Rogers, K., Forster, C. The last of the dinosaur titans: a new sauropod from Madagascar. Nature 412, 530–534 (2001).

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