Therizinosauroids are an enigmatic group of dinosaurs known mostly from the Cretaceous period of Asia, whose derived members are characterized by elongate necks, laterally expanded pelves, small, leaf-shaped teeth, edentulous rostra and mandibular symphyses that probably bore keratinized beaks. Although more than a dozen therizinosauroid taxa are known, their relationships within Dinosauria have remained controversial because of fragmentary remains and an unusual suite of characters. The recently discovered 'feathered' therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus from the Early Cretaceous of China helped to clarify the theropod affinities of the group. However, Beipiaosaurus is also poorly represented. Here we describe a new, primitive therizinosauroid from an extensive paucispecific bonebed at the base of the Cedar Mountain Formation (Early Cretaceous) of east-central Utah. This new taxon represents the most complete and most basal therizinosauroid yet discovered. Phylogenetic analysis of coelurosaurian theropods incorporating this taxon places it at the base of the clade Therizinosauroiden, indicating that this species documents the earliest known stage in the poorly understood transition from carnivory to herbivory within Therizinosauroidea. The taxon provides the first documentation, to our knowledge, of therizinosauroids in North America during the Early Cretaceous.
Additional publication details
A primitive therizinosauroid dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Utah