J.D. Schmerge & B.M. Rothschild (2016)
When a groove is not a groove: Clarification of the appearance of the dentary groove in tyrannosauroid theropods and the distinction between Nanotyrannus and Tyrannosaurus. Reply to Comment on: "Distribution of the dentary groove of theropod dinosaurs: implications for theropod phylogeny and the validity of the genus Nanotyrannus Bakker et al., 1988"
Cretaceous Research (advance online publication)
The occurrence of a lateral groove in the dentary of theropod dinosaurs was argued to be a key diagnostic character for establishing the validity of Nanotyrannus lancensis as a unique taxon separate from Tyrannosaurus rex by Schmerge and Rothschild (2016). The validity of this distinction has been challenged in a comment paper by Brusatte et al. (in press). The main criticisms raised in this comment address the methodology of the original study, the distribution of the dentary groove in theropods, the possibility of ontogenetic variability in the occurrence of the dentary groove, and the application of phylogenetic analysis to studying character distributions. In this reply, we clarify the definition of the theropod dentary groove, elucidate the difference between a true dentary groove and the appearance of a false "pseudo-groove", justify our original methodology with a discussion of the errors involved in identifying grooves by Brusatte et al. (in press), and support our original findings with descriptions of additional specimens. Investigation of additional specimens of Nanotyrannus, as well as critical examination of Tyrannosaurus specimens presented by Brusatte et al. (in press), reaffirm the result of our original study that Nanotyrannus can be differentiated from Tyrannosaurus based on the depth of its dentary groove, independent of ontogenetic stage. Despite any possible ontogenetic variation in the appearance of the dentary groove that can be interpreted, all specimens of Nanotyrannus possess distinct grooves whereas Tyrannosaurus lacks a groove. The most parsimonious explanation for the different appearance of these grooves is that Nanotyrannus does not represent a juvenile Tyrannosaurus.