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Speculations on Dixon’s New Dinosaurs: Classifying "The New Dinosaurs" for Spec World

Speculations on Dixon’s New Dinosaurs: Classifying "The New Dinosaurs" for Spec World

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Published by Tamara Henson
A fun little essay I wrote trying to combine Dougal Dixon's book "The New Dinosaurs" with the more recent web work "Spec World".
A fun little essay I wrote trying to combine Dougal Dixon's book "The New Dinosaurs" with the more recent web work "Spec World".

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Published by: Tamara Henson on Mar 27, 2009
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09/07/2010

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Speculations on Dixon’s New Dinosaurs
Classifying
The New Dinosaurs
for Spec World
By Laura M. Henson
In 1988 paleontologist, Dougal Dixon wrote a book called
The New Dinosaurs: an Alternative Evolution
. This book was ahypothesis of how evolution would have ended up if the mass extinction 65 million years ago had never took place.Unfortunately, his book was based on the taxonomy of the early 1980’s when many dinosaur groups and genera were lumpedinto taxonomic wastebaskets. It is mainly for this reason that his book contains a few suggestions inconsistent with currentscientific knowledge. A good example of this is the family Coeluridae. In the 1980s, the coelurids were a very large andgeneralized group of theropods so it was natural for Dixon to make them ancestral to most of his coelurosaurs. Today weknow that the Coeluridae of the 1980s was an unnatural group containing coelopysids, compsognatids, ornitholestians andeven a few crocodiles! Today the family contains only two Jurassic genera. Another mistake is that Dixon’s Pterosaursreplace birds in dominance, though we now know that pterosaurs were declining rapidly before the mass extinction ever took  place.The Speculative Dinosaur Project) is an advanced version of The New Dinosaurs concept published on the web by DanielBensen, Brian Choo, David Marjanovic (et all), has been in the works since 2003 and is still being updated. In this paper, Iwill use the cladistic interpretation of modern taxonomy to merge Dixon’s world with Spec. If some creatures do not seem tohave a place on Spec (such as living pterosaurs and pachycephalosaurs) then perhaps, they have not yet been found, after allSpec is still being explored.
Theropoda
African Megalosaurs
Dixon had two modern species of 
Megalosaurus
in his book, something that would be extremely unlikely given modernknowledge. First of all the Megalosauridae of the 1980’s was a paraphyletic group, defined mostly by shared primitivefeatures, and hence not considered valid in the current, cladistic, paradigm. Even worse, the type species of 
Megalosaurus
was known from such fragmentary material that the name became something of a taxonomic wastebasket, and there is somedoubt now among paleontologists whether it even is a valid genus. Finally, no member of this family survived into theCretaceous period, though the related fish-eating Spinosaurids did. Thus, Dixon’s animals could not be
Megalosaurus
or even Megalosaurids. I thus think it is appropriate to rename Dixon’s genus
 Neomegalosaurus
that means, appropriately,
 New Megalosaurus
”.In Spec Africa, however, can be found “big, scaly monsters, knobbed with horns and spines, gnashing razor teeth and bellowing their ancient anger across the plains“. These scaly horrors are Abelisaurs a kind of dinosaur derived fromdinosaurs like
Ceratosaurus.
Abelisaurs weregeneralized predators that were so similar to Megalosaurs that Gregory S.Paul’s
 Predatory Dinosaurs of the World 
 placed them in the same family. Originating in the Jurassic, abelisauroids retainedtheir dominance in South America, Madagascar, India and Africa right up until the end of the Cretaceous.The main Spec Abelisauroid family, the Priscatauridae cannot be relatives of Dixon’s “Megalosaurus”as their forelimbs aretoo reduced but the Noasauridae also exist on Spec Earth. Noasaurids are best known for the genus
 Noasaurus
that had short, but strong arms with respectable talons and feet with sickle claws evolved independently from the deinonychosaurs, but presumably used for the same purpose. However, not all Noasaurids had sickle claws. The Chinese Middle Jurassic
Chuandongocoelurus,
late Jurassic
 Elaphrosaurus
, and the Cretaceous
Velocisaurus
were all small featherless runnerswithout sickle claws. On Spec, Earth two measured clades are described: the historic sickle clawed Noasaurinae (the Cain)and the uniquely Spec clade of ant-eating Kagruinae.Clearly, Dixon’s Neomegalosaurs could not be members of either Spec clade but must belong to a third subfamily: the Neomegalosaurinae, which parallels the Priscataurids of the mainland.
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Tyrannosaurs
On Spec, the Tyrannosauroia is the dominant clade of the northern hemisphere but in Dixon’s book only a single species, theSouth American Gourmand (
Ganeosaurus tardus
) appears. The Gourmand is a tyrannosaur in which the forelimbs haveentirely disappeared and armor plating has developed on the body. The native spec tyrannosaurs belong to the familyErrosauridae that is divided into the conventional northern hemisphere Errosaurinae, the circumpolar sabre-toothedSmilotyranninae, and the Neotropical Nototyranninae. As it is a South American Tyrannosaur, the Gourmand must belong tothe Nototyranninae.The Gourmand shares more than just habitat with the Nototyrannines however. First of all Nototyrannines posses less plumage than their northern cousins, with some being almost bald, and secondly they have unique feet with only the twoouter toes remaining. Both of these features are also found in the Gourmand though the Gourmand is more primitive inretaining its halux and the gigantic size of its smilotyrannine ancestors. These ancestors competed with and lost their top predator niche to the hesperonychid deinonychosaurs and as a result, most Nototyrannines (or cazadins) are relegated to thesmall, running-predator niches that are have traditionally belonged to the deionychosaurs. The Gourmand is the exception tothis rule and has been able to retain its large size by losing its adaptations for speed and changing to a primarily scavengingmode of life.
Australian Coelurosaurs
It is obvious that Dixon’s Australian “Coelurids”are among the 40-odd species of Spec Cedunasauria. This clade is the mainlinage of Australasian theropods and is an extremely varied group of animals characterized by the loss of the hallux, the lack of true feathers and primitive-style forelimbs. Of Dixon’s genera, it is clear that the Dingum (
Velludorsum venenum
) and thePouch (
Saccosaurus spp.
) are members of the family Cedunasauridae, though the pouch may deserve its own subfamily. Asfor the Cribrum (
Cribrusaurus rubicundus
), it most likely belongs to the Chimerasauridae and is the ecological equivalent tothe prehistoric
Gallimimus
(or the real Earth flamingo) as opposed to
Chimerasaurus
, which is equivalent to Gallimimus’sherbivorous relative
Ornithomimus
or the real earth Ostrich.
Arbrosaurs
Of all of Dixon’s dinosaurs, the Arbrosaurs are the easiest to classify, as they are clearly the same as Spec Earth’sArbronychosauroidea, a super family of the Deinonychosauria, indeed the majority even belong to known Spec families.These clades and their Dixon species are as follows:
Arbronychosauridae
(Moulongs and tree lurks of the Old World)Arbronychosaurids are characterized by unusually limber tails (especially for deinonychosaurs), turning the appendage intoan extremely mobile pole that may be twisted at almost any angle relative to the body. This modified tail is allows a jumpingarbronychosaur to shift its center of balance and alter direction in mid-leap.Tree hopper (
rbrosaurus bernardi
) African tree leaper 
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Flurrit (
 Labisaurus alatus
) an oriental tree leaper that glides in a fashion much like the real Earth Colugo.
Pacififonychidae
(Island arbros, blue-winged arbros, and fruit-arbros of South America)Pacifonychids are similar to the arbronychosaurids in appearance and could even be mistaken for Old-World species thoughthey lack the limber tail of the Old-World arbros. One subfamily (the fruit-arbros of genus
 Pacifonyx
) is unique in beinglarge, arboreal fruit-eaters. Nauger (
 Picusaurus terebradens
) woodpecker like insectivore with uniquely elongated finger. However, it is possible thatthis species is a derived Strigosaurid.
Strigosauridae
(Skreechers and saltaritas of South America)Strigosaurids make up the bulk of Neotropical arbronychosauroids and are medium-sized-to-tiny predators with distinctivedish-shaped faces and relatively short tails. All strigosaurids also have asymmetrically placed ears that allow them to pinpointthe origin of a sound in three dimensions with tremendous accuracy. All are arboreal ambush predators that leap from higher  branches onto the prey. The smallest are insectivorous while larger species prey on birds, lizards, and small mammals. NorthAmerican species probably migrated to the north during the ice age.Treepounce (
 Raminsidius jacksoni
) this ocelot-like animal from North American is an arboreal ambush predator with highlydeveloped ears.Footle (
Currerus elegans
) a tiny North American insectivorous arbrosaur.Scaly Glider (
 Pennasaurus volans
) a South American species that glides on broad flattened “scales”which it uses to pounceon butterflies.
Vespagadae (the Tube Snouts)
The vespagids are a family unique to Dixon’s world that is characterized by their unusual muzzle shape in which the bones of the skull have become fused into a narrow armored tube equipped with an extremely long and protrudable tongue. Anadditional trait unique to this clade is that the long hair-like feathers possessed by the ancestral Arbronychosaurid have fusedtogether to form “scales”which protect them from the stings of their insect prey. Two species are insect eaters but the thirdhas become a nectar feeder much like the Real Earth hummingbird. Their ancestry in uncertain but I feel that their rather short tails makes them to most likely be allied with the Strigosauridae.Waspeater (
Vespaga parma
) is an African arboreal species that feeds on wasps and bees.Pangaloon (
 Filarmura tuburostra
) is a pangolin-like South American species that feeds on ants.Gimp (
elexsorbius parvus
) a tiny, nectar eater from South America.
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