Untangling the dinosaur family tree

M.C. Langer, M.D. Ezcurra, O.W.M. Rauhut, M.J. Benton, F. Knoll, B.W. McPhee, F.E. Novas, D. Pol, Stephen Brusatte

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


For over a century, the standard classification scheme has split dinosaurs into two fundamental groups1: ‘lizard-hipped’ saurischians (including meat-eating theropods and long-necked sauropodomorphs) and ‘bird-hipped’ ornithischians (including a variety of herbivorous species)2,3,4. In a recent paper, Baron et al.5 challenged this paradigm with a new phylogenetic analysis that places theropods and ornithischians together in a group called Ornithoscelida, to the exclusion of sauropodomorphs, and used their phylogeny to argue that dinosaurs may have originated in northern Pangaea, not in the southern part of the supercontinent, as has more commonly been considered6,7. Here we evaluate and reanalyse the morphological dataset underpinning the proposal by Baron et al.5 and provide quantitative biogeographic analyses, which challenge the key results of their study by recovering a classical monophyletic Saurischia and a Gondwanan origin for dinosaurs. This shows that the Ornithoscelida hypothesis is not the final word, and that there is still great uncertainty around the basic structure of the dinosaur family tree.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


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