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[dinosaur] Nothronychus (therizinosaurian) basicranium (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

David K. Smith, R. Kent Sanders & Douglas G. Wolfe (2018)Â
A re-evaluation of the basicranial soft tissues and pneumaticity of the therizinosaurian Nothronychus mckinleyi (Theropoda; Maniraptora).Â
PLoS ONE 13(7): e0198155.
doi:Â https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198155

The soft-tissue reconstruction and associated osteology of the North American therizinosaurian Nothronychus mckinleyi is updated. The cranial nerve topology is revised, bringing it more in line with coelurosaurs. The trunk of the trigeminal nerve is very short, with an incompletely intracranial trigeminal ganglion, an ophthalmic branch diverging anteriorly first, with later divergences of the maxillomandibular branches, following typical pathways. The facial nerve has been re-evaluated, resulting in a very typical configuration with an extracranial geniculate ganglion. The single foramen leading to the cochlea probably transmitted the vestibulocochlear nerve, along with some fibers of the facial. This configuration is reduced from the more standard three foramina (vestibular, cochlear, and facial) and may be apomorphic for therizinosaurs. Some alteration is proposed for the dorsiflexive musculature. The insertion point for m. transversospinalis capitis is partially changed to extend onto the parietal, along with a proposed functional difference in the moment arm. The expansion of the basicranial pneumatic system is limited to the paratympanic system, enhancing low frequency sound sensitivity. There is little expansion of the median pharyngeal and subcondylar sinuses. Ossification of the surrounding epithelium may provide some information on the embryology of the theropod skull. It may be associated with a reduced stress field, or the general similarity of the basicranium with anterior cervical vertebrae may reflect activation of a cervical vertebral (Hox) gene regulating ossification of the pneumatic sinuses. This might be a local, selectively neutral, fixed gene in the basicranium reflecting embryological regulation of cervical vertebrae development.