Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

Cranial anatomy of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada

Philip J. Currie

Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48 (2), 2003: 191-226

Beautifully preserved, nearly complete theropod skeletons from Alberta (Canada) allow re-evaluation of the taxonomic status of North American tyrannosaurids. It is concluded that the most parsimonious interpretation of relationships leads to the separation of the two species of Albertosaurus (sensu Russell 1970) into Gorgosaurus libratus from the Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation and Albertosaurus sarcophagus from the upper Campanian/lower Maastrichtian Horseshoe Canyon Formation. Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus are closely related, but can be distinguished from each other by more characters than are known to justify generic distinction within another tyrannosaurid clade that includes Daspletosaurus, Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. Daspletosaurus is known from multiple species that cover extensive geographic, ecological and temporal ranges, and it is sensible to maintain its generic distinction from Tyrannosaurus. All tyrannosaurid species have consistent ontogenetic trends. However, one needs to be cautious in assessing ontogenetic stage because many characters are size-dependent rather than age-dependent. There are relatively few osteological differences that can distinguish tyrannosaurid species at any age. For example, Nanotyrannus lancensis is probably a distinct species from Tyrannosaurus rex because there is no evidence of ontogenetic reduction of tooth counts in any other tyrannosaurid species. Some characters that are good for separating mature tyrannosaurids, such as differences in the sizes and shapes of maxillary fenestrae, are not useful for identifying the species of juveniles.

Key words: Dinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda, Coelurosauria, Tyrannosauridae, Cretaceous, Alberta, skull anatomy.

Philip J. Currie [],Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Box 7500, Drumheller, AB, T0J 0Y0 Canada.

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