Fitzgerald, Erich M. G., Carrano, Matthew T., Holland, Timothy, Wagstaff, Barbara E., Pickering, David, Rich, Thomas H. and Vickers-Rich, Patricia
The basal theropod dinosaur clade Ceratosauria, and its subclade Abelisauroidea, is characteristic of late Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrate faunas in western Gondwana (South America, Africa, Madagascar, and India) and Europe. Yet unambiguous records of ceratosaurs have hitherto been absent from Australia, where the theropod assemblage appears to include several typically Laurasian clades. Here, we report the first evidence of ceratosaurs (and potentially abelisauroids) from eastern Gondwanaa diagnostic astragalocalcaneum from the Aptian (121125 Ma) of Victoria, Australia. Ceratosauria thus occurred in both western and eastern Gondwana during the Early Cretaceous. This fossil adds to the poorly known dinosaur fauna of Australia, a major clade of basal theropods, emphasising that its mid-Cretaceous theropod diversity was surprisingly cosmopolitan despite relative geographic isolation, including clades that have been thought to be typical of both Gondwana and LaurasiaCeratosauria, Spinosauridae, Carcharodontosauria, Tyrannosauroidea, and Deinonychosauria. Such a contemporaneous association of theropod clades is unknown from other Gondwanan continents and questions the views that the late Mesozoic dinosaur fauna of Australia was dominated by Gondwanan or Laurasian elements, extreme isolation, relictualism, and/or novelty as a centre of origin. The cosmopolitan theropod fauna of Australia probably reflects the global distribution of these clades early in their history, prior to significant continental breakup.