The femoral ontogeny and long bone histology of the Middle Triassic (?late Anisian) dinosauriform Asilisaurus kongwe and implications for the growth of early dinosaurs
Griffin et al
The ontogeny of early-diverging dinosauromorphs is poorly understood because few ontogenetic series from the same species-level taxon are known and what is available has not been extensively documented. The large numbers of skeletal elements of the silesaurid Asilisaurus kongwe recently recovered from Tanzania provide an opportunity to examine the ontogenetic trajectory of the earliest known member of Ornithodira and one of the closest relatives to Dinosauria. We examined the ontogeny of the femur and the histology of a series of long bone elements. We observed bone scar variation in a series of femora (n = 27) of different lengths (73.8–177.2 mm). We hypothesize that most femora follow a similar developmental trajectory; however, we observed sequence polymorphism in the order of appearance and shape of bone scars, and we quantified this polymorphism using ontogenetic sequence analysis (OSA). Additionally, five femora, three tibiae, a fibula, and a humerus were thin-sectioned to examine osteological tissues. No lines of arrested growth (LAGs) are present in any specimen, and there is little histological information about the ontogenetic stage of femora, although none have slowed or ceased growth. The woven-fibered bone present in the cortex of elements sectioned is similar to that of the earliest dinosaurs. This sequence polymorphism provides an alternate hypothesis for the robust/gracile dichotomy found in early dinosaurs often interpreted as sexual dimorphism. The shared femoral features found in Asilisaurus and early dinosaurs suggest that this ontogenetic pattern is plesiomorphic for Dinosauria, and that size is a poor predictor of maturity in early dinosauriforms.