Matthew G. Baron (2017)
Pisanosaurus mertii and the Triassic ornithischian crisis: could phylogeny offer a solution?
Historical Biology (advance online publication)
Two recent studies have independently recovered Pisanosaurus mertii â long thought to represent the oldest known member of Ornithischia â within Silesauridae. These finds are expanded upon here, as are the implications of this hypothesis. Based upon these finds, it now appears that Ornithischia was absent in the Triassic Period entirely, which constitutes a major incongruence between the fossil record and current phylogenetic hypotheses, particularly the traditional model of dinosaur interrelationships in which Ornithischia and Saurischia are sister-taxa. It has been suggested previously that Ornithischia was simply a rare component of Late Triassic faunas, or that perhaps the cladeâs ecology or geographic distribution were not conducive to producing a fossil record. Here I propose that phylogeny could hold the solution to this problem. I examine how an alternative position for Ornithischia â nested either within Theropoda or Sauropodomorpha â could be the reason behind their later appearance and relative rarity in the Early Jurassic. An Early Jurassic origin of Ornithischia would force us to consider that the anatomical similarities between ornithischians and Early Jurassic taxa might not be convergences, and to broaden the current datasets of early dinosaurs to test these ideas.