The theropod dinosaur Elaphrosaurus bambergi Janensch, 1920, from the Late Jurassic of Tendaguru, Tanzania
Rauhaut et al
Theropod dinosaurs from the Late Jurassic of Gondwana are still poorly known, with Elaphrosaurus bambergi Janensch, 1920, from the late Kimmeridgian of Tendaguru, Tanzania, being the only taxon represented by more than isolated remains from Africa. Having long been considered a coelurosaurian, more specifically an ornithomimosaur, Elaphrosaurus is currently regarded as a basal ceratosaur. Here, we revise the osteology and phylogenetic position of this important taxon. Elaphrosaurus shows many unusual osteological characters, including extremely elongated and constricted cervical vertebrae, an expansive shoulder girdle with strongly modified forelimbs, a relatively small ilium, and elongate hindlimbs with a very small ascending process of the astragalus that is fused to the tibia. We found this taxon to share many derived characters with noasaurids, such as: strongly elongate cervical and dorsal vertebrae; low, rectangular neural spines in the mid-caudal vertebrae; presence of only an anterior centrodiapophyseal lamina in anterior caudal vertebrae; presence of a wide, U–shaped notch between the glenoid and the anteroventral hook in the coracoid; a laterally flared postacetabular blade of the ilium; a flat anterior side of the distal tibia; and a reduced shaft of metatarsal II. Our analysis placed Elaphrosaurus within a dichotomous Noasauridae as part of a Jurassic subclade, here termed Elaphrosaurinae, that otherwise includes taxa from eastern Asia. These results underscore the long and complex evolutionary history of abelisauroids, which is still only beginning to be understood.