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The Skull of Rapetosaurus krausei (Sauropoda: Titanosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar

Kristina Curry Rogers and Catherine A. Forster
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar. 25, 2004), pp. 121-144
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4524699
Page Count: 24
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The Skull of Rapetosaurus krausei (Sauropoda: Titanosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar
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Abstract

Rapetosaurus krausei (Sauropoda: Titanosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous Maevarano Formation of Madagascar is the best-preserved and most complete titanosaur yet described. The skull of Rapetosaurus is particularly significant because most titanosaurs are diagnosed solely on the basis of fragmentary postcranial material, and knowledge of the titanosaur skull has remained incomplete. Material referred to Rapetosaurus includes the type skull from an adult that preserves the basicranium, rostrum, mandible, and palate. A second, juvenile skull preserves most of the braincase and cranial vault, as well as some of the palate and lower jaw. Here we provide a detailed description of Rapetosaurus cranial anatomy and highlight comparative relationships among known titanosaur and other neosauropod skulls. The Rapetosaurus skull is similar to those of diplodocoids in its overall shape, with retracted external nares and an elongated snout. However, extensive tooth distribution and bone articulations surrounding the external narial region and orbit are more similar to those of macronarians like Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus. The maxilla, basicranium, paroccipital process, and pterygoid are among the most diagnostic elements of the Rapetosaurus skull, along with the enlarged antorbital fenestra, anteroventrally oriented braincase, and mandible. Titanosaur crania exhibit a greater diversity than previously recognized and, in light of Rapetosaurus, it is apparent that there is not a narrowly constrained bauplan for the skull of titanosaurs. Broad generalizations about evolution based on previously known, fragmentary fossils require re-evaluation. Ultimately, Rapetosaurus will be key in resolving titanosaur higher-level and ingroup phylogeny.

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