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Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 24;7(1):16247. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15709-7.

Functional anatomy of a giant toothless mandible from a bird-like dinosaur: Gigantoraptor and the evolution of the oviraptorosaurian jaw.

Author information

1
Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China.
2
Longhao Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Hohhot, Nei Mongol, 010011, China.
3
Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China. mpittman@hku.hk.
4
Nei Mongol Museum of Nature, Hohhot, Nei Mongol, 010011, China.
5
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100044, China. xingxu@vip.sina.com.

Abstract

The Oviraptorosauria are a group of theropod dinosaurs that diverged from the typical carnivorous theropod diet. It includes two main lineages - Caenagnathidae and Oviraptoridae - that display a number of differences in mandibular morphology, but little is known about their functional consequences, hampering our understanding of oviraptorosaurian dietary evolution. This study presents the first in-depth description of the giant toothless mandible of Gigantoraptor, the only well-preserved stemward caenagnathid mandible. This mandible shows the greatest relative beak depth among caenagnathids, which is an adaptation seen in some modern birds for processing harder seeds. The presence of a lingual triturating shelf in caenagnathids more crownward than Gigantoraptor suggests a possible increased specialization towards shearing along this lineage. Like other oviraptorosaurs, the possession of a dorsally convex articular glenoid in Gigantoraptor indicates that propalinal jaw movement was probably an important mechanism for food processing, as in Sphenodon and dicynodonts. Oviraptorid mandibles were more suited for producing powerful bites (e.g. crushing-related) compared to caenagnathids: oviraptorids generally possess a deeper, more downturned beak, a taller coronoid process prominence and a larger medial mandibular fossa. This disparity in caenagnathid and oviraptorid mandible morphology potentially suggests specialization towards two different feeding styles - shearing and crushing-related mechanisms respectively.

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