Conference Paper

A NEUROVASCULAR CAVITY WITHIN THE SNOUT OF THE PREDATORY DINOSAUR SPINOSAURUS

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Abstract

In 2005, Dal Sasso et al. described an almost complete snout of the unusual theropod Spinosaurus, from the Late Cretaceous of Morocco. Siemens CAT scan analysis, performed recently on the same specimen at the Ospedale Maggiore di Milano, reveals that the numerous foramina located on the outer wall of the rostrum communicate with a common internal cavity, deeply encased medially within the premaxillae, which is unique among theropod dinosaurs. The extreme retraction of the external nares in Spinosaurus permits to exclude any respiratory/olfactory function of this cavity, which in turn has a neurovascular nature. The cavity flows into two paired neurovascular passages, going through the entire snout and meeting caudally at level of the fifth maxillary tooth. This suggests that a rostral extension of the trigeminal nerve innervated the cavity. Soares (2002) demonstrated that the foramina on the facial bones of living and extinct semi-aquatic crocodilians house dome pressure receptors, innervated by the trigeminal nerve, that are useful to hunt even in darkness, detecting prey-made pressure waves associated with disruptions to the air-water interface. According to Taquet (1984) and Holtz (2003), spinosaurids might have hunted in riparian habitats in a manner similar to herons. As for Spinosaurus, we postulate the presence of croc-like pressure receptors, that might have given its mouth, when positioned on the air-water interface, an unexpected tactile function, useful to catch swimming preys without relying on sight.

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... Modern crocodilians possess trigeminal-innervated integumentary sensory organs for detecting prey in low-visibility environments (Munger and Ide, 1988;Leitch and Catania, 2012), while extant aquatic mammals possess vibrissae-related mechanoreceptors (pinnipeds, odontocetes: Ahl, 1986) and even electroreceptive organs (monotremes, odontocetes: Pettigrew and Wilkens, 2003;Czech-Damal et al., 2012). Similar adaptations have also been hypothesized for pliosaurid plesiosaurs (Foffa et al., 2014), mosasaurs ( Alvarez-Herrera et al., 2020) and even for semiaquatic theropods (Dal Sasso et al., 2009;Cau et al., 2017). However, neurovascular anatomy of the rostrum in these animals is extremely complex, with higher vascularization and denser branching than the ichthyosaurian condition (Lomax et al., 2019). ...
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In 2016 a new Cretaceous ichthyosaur rostrum fragment (IG 251372) was found near Gombola, Modena Province, northern Italy. Two rostral fragments and a partial humerus were previously reported from the same locality. Despite their fragmentary nature, all these finds are relatively well preserved, with just slightly deformed shape and teeth still in place. Here we describe IG 251372, relying on CT-scan technology to allow visualization of the fossil internal structure. The new specimen has been ascribed to the sub-family Platypterygiinae based on the sub-rectangular profile of the tooth roots. Tooth crowns are robust and show a similar density of enamel ridges to many other Cretaceous ichthyosaurs historically referred to the genus Platypterygius. A detailed taphonomical analysis was performed on the material from Gombola. The ichthyosaurs previously ascribed to Platypterygius are now identified only to the subfamily level. CT-scans revealed an anterior neurovascular network within both the premaxilla and the dentary, here interpreted as mandibular and maxillary/ophthalmic divisions of the trigeminal nerve. Axial sections and videos show how these intraosseous channels emerge within the dental and premaxillary fossae. Cross section imaging of tooth roots showed an alternating pattern of tooth resorption and eruption, providing additional information on dental replacement in ichthyosaurs. IG 251372 has been attributed to the Albian-Cenomanian by means of nannofossils contained within the matrix, making it the first ichthyosaur from the Northern Apennines to be directly dated.
... Full-size  DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6112/ fig-5 crocodilians and lepidosaurs, as well as those reported in theropod dinosaurs (Dal Sasso, Maganuco & Cioffi, 2009), pliosaurs (Ketchum & Benson, 2011;Foffa et al., 2014b) and plesiosaurs (Ketchum & Smith, 2010) and something similar in ichthyosaurs (Lomax & Massare, 2015). In extant taxa, these canals carry neurovascular bundles consisting of the maxillary artery and maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve (CN V 2 ) in the upper jaw, and the inferior alveolar artery and mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve (CN V 3 ) (Witmer, 1997). ...
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Ichthyosaur fossils are abundant in Lower Jurassic sediments with nine genera found in the UK. In this paper, we describe the partial skeleton of a large ichthyosaur from the Lower Jurassic (lower Sinemurian) of Warwickshire, England, which was conserved and rearticulated to form the centrepiece of a new permanent gallery at the Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum in 2015. The unusual three-dimensional preservation of the specimen permitted computed tomography (CT) scanning of individual braincase elements as well as the entire reassembled skull. This represents one of the first times that medical imaging and three-dimensional reconstruction methods have been applied to a large skull of a marine reptile. Data from these scans provide new anatomical information, such as the presence of branching vascular canals within the premaxilla and dentary, and an undescribed dorsal (quadrate) wing of the pterygoid hidden within matrix. Scanning also revealed areas of the skull that had been modelled in wood, clay and other materials after the specimen’s initial discovery, highlighting the utility of applying advanced imaging techniques to historical specimens. Additionally, the CT data served as the basis for a new three-dimensional reconstruction of the skull, in which minor damage was repaired and the preserved bones digitally rearticulated. Thus, for the first time a digital reconstruction of the skull and mandible of a large marine reptile skull is available. Museum records show the specimen was originally identified as an example of Ichthyosaurus communis but we identify this specimen as Protoichthyosaurus prostaxalis . The specimen features a skull nearly twice as long as any previously described specimen of P. prostaxalis , representing an individual with an estimated total body length between 3.2 and 4 m.
... Unlike in pike congers, olfaction was probably not involved in prey detection in spinosaurids. On the basis of the presence of snout neurovascular foramina (Dal Sasso et al. 2005), it has been suggested that Spinosaurus had a sensory integumentary system similar to that of other groups of long-snouted predators such as crocodilians (Dal Sasso et al. 2009Ibrahim et al. 2014) and pliosaurs (Foffa et al. 2014b). Pressure receptors and the enhanced tactile sensitivity would have helped in localizing and biting aquatic prey items under low-light conditions (i.e., in turbid waters or during crepuscular/nocturnal feeding activity), similarly to mechanoreceptive neuromasts present in the pored canals of the cephalic lateral line system of pike congers. ...
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Spinosaurs represent a group of peculiar theropod dinosaurs that have often been described as “crocodile-mimic”, predominantly fish-eating predators, and recently claimed to have been semi-aquatic animals. Here we report a suite of craniodental characters unexpectedly shared by spinosaurs and pike conger eels. Pike conger eels are predatory, mainly piscivorous bottom-dwelling anguilliform fishes that inhabit marine and brackish environments. These two groups of dinosaurs and fishes show a mediolaterally compressed, elongated rostrum, a terminal “rosette” bearing enlarged teeth in both upper and lower jaws, and a notch posterior to the premaxillary “rosette” characterized by the presence of reduced teeth. The morphological convergence observed in the jaws of these two distantly related groups of vertebrates may result from similar feeding behaviours. This typical jaw morphology likely represents an effective biomechanical adaptation for biting and grabbing elusive prey items in low-light aquatic environments. Associated with this specialized snout morphology, numerous integumentary mechanoreceptors involved in prey detection are present in both spinosaurs and pike congers. Our new observations provide an additional convincing argument regarding the decades-long and widely debated lifestyle of spinosaurs.
... Communicated by: Robert Reisz D. Foffa (*) : J. Sassoon : A. R. Cuff : M. J. Benton School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK e-mail: df1818@my.bristol.ac.uk Spinosaurus (Dal Sasso et al. 2005 Sasso et al. , 2009), and it is sometimes possible to infer the distribution of soft tissues by making comparisons with extant taxa. However, for pliosaurids, there are no directly analogous living taxa for comparison. ...
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Pliosaurs were a long-lived, ubiquitous group of Me-sozoic marine predators attaining large body sizes (up to 12 m). Despite much being known about their ecology and behaviour, the mechanisms they adopted for prey detection have been poorly investigated and represent a mystery to date. Complex neurovascular systems in many vertebrate rostra have evolved for prey detection. However, information on the occurrence of such systems in fossil taxa is extremely limited because of poor preservation potential. The neurovascular complex from the snout of an exceptionally well-preserved pliosaur from the Kimmeridgian (Late Jurassic, c. 170 Myr ago) of Weymouth Bay (Dorset, UK) is described here for the first time. Using computed tomography (CT) scans, the extensive bifurcating neurovascular channels could be traced through the rostrum to both the teeth and the foramina on the dorsal and lateral surface of the snout. The structures on the surface of the skull and the high concentrations of peripheral rami suggest that this could be a sensory system, perhaps similar to crocodile pressure receptors or shark electroreceptors.
... Due to their highly specialized skull and dentition, adapted for piscivory (e.g., Taquet 1984;Charig & Milner 1997;Sereno et al. 1998;Dal Sasso et al. 2005;Hendrickx & Buffetaut 2008;Dal Sasso et al. 2009), several features of spinosaurid teeth have already been used as synapomorphies by many authors (e.g., Sereno et al. 1998;Holtz et al. 2004;Benson 2010;Mateus et al. 2011;Carrano et al. 2012). Their teeth are indeed highly diagnostic (in fact the most diagnostic among theropods; see Table 2) as all spinosaurids possess subcircular mesialmost and lateral crowns displaying flutes (i.e., subparallel longitudinal grooves separated by acute ridges) on the lingual and/ or labial margin, minute denticles or no serrations at all on both mesial and distal carinae, and the enamel texture of Spinosaurus and baryonychines is deeply veined (or 'sculptured' sensu Hasegawa et al. 2010) and curves basally close to the carinae. ...
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Thèse--Strasbourg. Without thesis statement. t. 1. Le précambrien saharien au sud de l'Adrar des Iforas.--
Famennian chondrichthyans from the shelves of North Gondwana
  • M Ginter
  • V Hairapetian
  • C Klug
Ginter, M., Hairapetian, V., Klug, C., 2002. Famennian chondrichthyans from the shelves of North Gondwana. Acta Geologica Polonica, 52(2), 169-215.
Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
  • Patrick De Wever
DE WEVER Patrick Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Géologie CP 48, 43 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris (pdewever@mnhn.fr) 18
Corresponding author: Intern. Tel. 33 320 336062; Fax
  • France Villeneuve D'ascq Cedex
Villeneuve d'Ascq cedex, France. Corresponding author: Intern. Tel. 33 320 336062; Fax. 33 320 434910;
Université Mohamed 1 er , Faculté des Sciences
  • El Hammouti Kamal
EL HAMMOUTI Kamal Université Mohamed 1 er, Faculté des Sciences, Laboratoire Géosciences appliquées, Oujda, Maroc.
Département de Géologie
  • El Kati Imad
EL KATI Imad (LPGERN), Département de Géologie, Université Ibn Tofail, Faculté des Sciences, BP. 133, Kenitra, Morocco. (imadelkati@yahoo.fr) 35, 46, 47
34 GROESSENS Eric Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de France, DO Terre et Histoire de la Vie
  • Goussard Florent
GOUSSARD Florent CR2P, CNRS-MNHN-UPMC, Paris, France 34 GROESSENS Eric Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de France, DO Terre et Histoire de la Vie, Service Géologique de France, 13, rue Jenner 1000 Bruxelles, France ; (eric.groessens@sciencesnaturelles.be) 20
Les vertébrés fossiles des gisements de phosphates (Maroc-Algérie-Tunisie)
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ARAMBOURG C. 1952. Les vertébrés fossiles des gisements de phosphates (Maroc-Algérie-Tunisie). Notes et Mémoires du Service Géologique du Maroc, 92: 1-372.
A survey of pterosaurs from Africa with the description of a new specimen from Morocco
  • W A Kellner A
  • M S Mello A
  • Ford T
KELLNER A.W.A., MELLO A.M.S. & FORD T. 2007. A survey of pterosaurs from Africa with the description of a new specimen from Morocco. in CARVALHO I.S. et al. (eds.). Paleontologia: Cenários da Vida, Vol. 1. Interciência, p. 257-267 (ISBN 978-85-7193-184-8).
Comments on the pterosaur fauna from Tendaguru, Upper Jurassic of Africa, with the indentification of a possible azhdarchid
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