Thailand’s Prehistoric Surprise Unveiled – Newly Discovered Neornithischian Dinosaur Rewrites Evolutionary Tale

Minimocursor phunoiensis is the earliest known neornithischian dinosaur from Southeast Asia as well as one of the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in the region.

Reconstruction of Minimocursor phunoiensis. Image credit: Sci.News / Sita Manitkoon / Peter Lutz.

Minimocursor phunoiensis roamed our planet during the Upper Jurassic epoch, approximately 145 million years ago.

The ancient beast is a member of Neornithischia, a diverse group of dinosaurs that includes ornithopod and marginocephalian dinosaurs as well as many earlier forms.

“Neornithischia is a clade of herbivorous dinosaurs including ornithopods, marginocephalians and a diversity of small bipedal basal forms that were historically referred to as hypsilophodontids,” said Mahasarakham University researcher Sita Manitkoon and colleagues.

“The classification of basal neornithischians was presented and debated by many paleontologists.”

“In Asia, the earliest neornithischian is Sanxiasaurus modaoxiensis from the Middle Jurassic Xintiangou Formation of China.”

“Other species have been described from the Middle to Late Jurassic of Sichuan, China: Agilisaurus louderbacki, Hexinlusaurus multidens, and Xiaosaurus dashanpensis from the Lower Shaximiao Formation, as well as Yandusaurus hongheensis from the Upper Shaximiao Formation.”

“Basal neornithischians from Asia also include Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus from Siberia, which bore feather-like structures.”

Holotype of Minimocursor phunoiensis. Image credit: Manitkoon et al., doi: 10.3390/d15070851.

The exceptional articulated skeleton of Minimocursor phunoiensis was found at the Phu Noi locality in the lower part of the Phu Kradung Formation, Kalasin province, Thailand.

This dinosaur is the earliest neornithischian species from Southeast Asia and is one of the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in the region.

“The Phu Noi locality contains a wealth of specimens and has yielded an exceptionally articulated skeleton, which represents one of the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in Southeast Asia,” the paleontologists said.

“This is the earliest record of neornithischians in Southeast Asia, and the first dinosaur taxon named from the Phu Kradung Formation of Thailand.”

Minimocursor phunoiensis also shows a combination of characters resembling those of Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous small-bodied ornithischian dinosaurs from China.

“The discovery of this dinosaur provides new information about the biodiversity, biogeography, and early evolutionary history of neornithischians during the Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous time interval,” the authors said.

“Many of the remaining bones are still under preparation, including another skull.”

“These unpublished specimens may provide a better understanding of the biology of Minimocursor phunoiensis in the future.”

The discovery of Minimocursor phunoiensis is reported in a paper in the journal Diversity.

Sia

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