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Kristi Curry Rogers, Assistant Professor

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Project Details


Titanosauria


Titanosauria is the last surviving and most diverse group of the long-necked sauropod dinosaurs. More than 40 species of titanosaurs evolved within the context of the breakup of Pangea during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. The first titanosaur bones were recovered from India in 1828, and since then they have been discovered on almost every continent. In spite of their geographic distribution and temporal longevity, they remain among the most poorly understood of dinosaur groups. In the last decade, important new discoveries have shed light on titanosaur anatomy and ontogeny and paved the way for a more detailed treatment of the group. I am collaborating with Jeff Wilson (University of Michigan) on an NSF-funded project aimed at resolving the species-level relationships of Titanosauria. We are including a number of titanosaurs that have not yet been incorporated in earlier analyses. In addition to published characters, we are conducting alpha taxonomic work and specimen research in museum collections to derive novel characters. Once titanosaur phylogeny is resolved we will tackle a number of the paleobiological questions that motivate our study. These include:
  • Titanosauria includes the largest terrestrial vertebrates of all time, as well as uniquely derived dwarf species. These smaller taxa may imply an evolutionary reduction in body size otherwise known among dinosaurs only within the transition to birds. What were the growth rates and life history strategies among titanosaur taxa, and how did they evolve?
  • Titanosauria is a globally distributed group that diversified during peak Mesozoic continental fragmentation. With resolved cladograms for titanosaurs we will compare with those of other dinosaurs to investigate general patterns in dinosaur distribution, compare to patterns observed in other Mesozoic vertebrates to test hypotheses related to the timing and pattern of continental fragmentation, and address specific questions about titanosaur temporal and geographic distributions. What are the relationships between titanosaur evolution and the breakup of Pangea?




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