An Early Cretaceous heterodontosaurid dinosaur with filamentous integumentary structures

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Ornithischia is one of the two major groups of dinosaurs, with heterodontosauridae as one of its major clades. Heterodontosauridae is characterized by small, gracile bodies and a problematic phylogenetic position1,2. Recent phylogenetic work indicates that it represents the most basal group of all well-known ornithischians3. Previous heterodontosaurid records are mainly from the Early Jurassic period (205–190 million years ago) of Africa1,3. Here we report a new heterodontosaurid, Tianyulong confuciusi gen. et sp. nov., from the Early Cretaceous period (144–99 million years ago) of western Liaoning Province, China. Tianyulong extends the geographical distribution of heterodontosaurids to Asia and confirms the clade’s previously questionable temporal range extension into the Early Cretaceous period. More surprisingly, Tianyulong bears long, singular and unbranched filamentous integumentary (outer skin) structures. This represents the first confirmed report, to our knowledge, of filamentous integumentary structures in an ornithischian dinosaur.

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Figure 1: New heterodontosaurid ornithischian dinosaur T. confuciusi.
Figure 2: Integumentary structures of T. confuciusi holotype (STMN 26-3) and others for comparison.
Figure 3: Phylogenetic relationships of T. confuciusi and Heterodontosauridae.


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We thank P.-J. Chen for arranging the study, Y.-Q. Zhang for preparing the specimen, J. D. Harris for improving the manuscript, and L.-D. Xing for drawing Fig. 1d. H.-L.Y. was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40672007), the 973 Project and the Basic Outlay of Scientific Research Work from the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Hundred Talents Project of the Ministry of Land and Resources of China.

Author Contributions X.-T.Z. designed the project. H.-L.Y., X.X. and Z.-M.D. performed the research. H.-L.Y. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hai-Lu You.

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