Keegan M. Melstrom, Michael D. D'emic, Daniel Chure & Jeffrey A. Wilson (2016)
A juvenile sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of Utah, U.S.A., presents further evidence of an avian style air-sac system.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (advance online publication)
Well-preserved, articulated juvenile sauropod dinosaur material is very rare, hindering attempts to understand ontogenetic changes within the clade. Here, we describe an exceptionally preserved partial skeleton of a Barosaurus from the Morrison Formation of Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, U.S.A., that is only about one-third adult size. This small size and the lack of fusion of neurocentral and costovertebral sutures indicate that the individual is a juvenile. Apomorphy-based taxonomic identification of the specimen combined with the excellent preservation of its vertebral column allows documentation of both serial and ontogenetic morphological changes in Barosaurus. Each vertebra underwent substantial morphological change in the relative height of the neural spine and location of the zygapophyseal and diapophyseal articular facets during ontogeny but not in the degree of bifurcation of the neural spines. Pneumaticity in the dorsal vertebrae varies serially: large pneumatic fossae punctuate the centra of dorsal vertebrae 1–4 and 8–9, whereas these spaces are occupied by shallow depressions in dorsal vertebrae 5–7. This represents the first known caudal dorsal pneumatic hiatus in a sauropod dinosaur, which suggests that separate air sacs pneumatized the anterior and posterior regions of the dorsal vertebral column, congruent with the pattern observed in non-avian and avian theropod dinosaurs and the presence of an avian-style lung in sauropods.