Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, Aptian–Albian
|Restoration of Zephyrosaurus being attacked by a Deinonychus|
|Species:||† Z. schaffi|
Zephyrosaurus (meaning "westward wind lizard") is a genus of hypsilophodont ornithopod dinosaur. It is based on a partial skull and postcranial fragments discovered in the Aptian-Albian-age Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation of Carbon County, Montana. New remains are under description, and tracks from Maryland and Virginia have been attributed to something like it.
Zephyrosaurus is still very incompletely known. Among other distinctive characteristics, it had a steep face, a raised knob on the upper jaw, and a larger knob on the cheekbone. Some of the bones may have allowed movement within the skull (cranial kinesis) as well. Like other hypsilophodonts, it had beak teeth.
Several studies have suggested that Zephyrosaurus and Orodromeus are closely related, mostly by virtue of both having bosses (described informally as "somewhat like an altoid") on their cheeks. Other studies have had difficulty classifying it, due to the sparseness of the original material. Oryctodromeus also shares several characteristics with Zephyrosaurus and Orodromeus, some of which may be related to burrowing. Thus, there may be a possible clade of burrowing hypsilophodonts from the middle to Late Cretaceous of Montana.
Discovery and history
Hans-Dieter Sues named his new genus in recognition of the fossil being found in western North America, and Charles R. Schaff, who found the specimen. MCZ 4392, the type specimen, is composed of jaw fragments, the braincase and associated bones, several partial vertebrae, and rib fragments. He found the new genus to represent a previously unknown lineage of hypsilophodont, similar in some respects to Hypsilophodon.
Because of the fragmentary nature of the type, and lack of additional remains, Zephyrosaurus had not attracted much attention until recently, when two separate events brought it more recognition. First, Martha Kutter, in a 2003 abstract, reported on new remains of this genus under study at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, including the remains of at least seven individuals with bones from all regions of the body.
Then, Stanford et al. (2004) published on dinosaur tracks from the Patuxent Formation of Maryland and Virginia, which they named Hypsiloichnus marylandicus and attributed to an animal akin to Zephyrosaurus based on the proportions of the hands and feet.
- Sues, Hans-Dieter (1980). "Anatomy and relationships of a new hypsilophodontid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of North America". Palaeontographica Abteilung a Palaeozoologie-Stratigraphie 169 (1–3): 51–72.
- Weishampel, David B.; Heinrich, Ronald E. (1992). "Systematics of Hypsilophodontidae and Basal Iguanodontia (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda)". Historical Biology 6 (3): 159–184. doi:10.1080/10292389209380426. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- Buchholz, Peter W. (2002). "Phylogeny and biogeography of basal Ornithischia". The Mesozoic in Wyoming, Tate 2002. Casper, Wyoming: The Geological Museum, Casper College. pp. 18–34.
- Norman, David B.; Sues, Hans-Dieter; Witmer, Larry M.; Coria, Rodolfo A. (2004). "Basal Ornithopoda". In Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; and Osmólska, Halszka (eds.). The Dinosauria (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 393–412. ISBN 0-520-24209-2.
- Varricchio, David J.; Martin, Anthony J.; Katsura, Yoshihiro (2007). "First trace and body fossil evidence of a burrowing, denning dinosaur". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274 (1616): 1361–1368. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0443. PMC 2176205. PMID 17374596. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
- Kutter, M.M. (2003). "New material of Zephyrosaurus schaffi (Dinosauria:Ornithischia) from the Cloverly Formation (Aptian-Albian) of Montana". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23 (3, Suppl.): 69A.
- Stanford, R.; Weems, R.; Lockley, M. (2004). "A new dinosaur ichnotaxon from the Lower Cretaceous Patuxent Formation of Maryland and Virginia". Ichnos 11 (3–4): 251–259. doi:10.1080/10420940490428797.
- Press release for Hypsiloichnus marylandicus.
- Dinosaur Mailing List discussion on what would become Hypsiloichnus marylandicus.
- Photograph of a Hypsiloichnus marylandicus footprint, from The Paleontology Portal.
- Zephyrosaurus in The Natural History Museum's Dino Directory.