The ornithomimosaurs could not have had much less attention on here if I’d tried (Deinocheirus aside), despite the frankly massive bias towards theropods on here. I must confess to not finding them especially exciting, but a good specimen with an interesting feature or two is always worth a quick look. In this case the photos come courtesy of Steve Brusatte (occasional Musings guest poster and research collaborator) as, although the specimen is on exhibit in Beijing, I never got around to taking any photos of it and Steve has a nice set that he was willing to share. Thanks, Steve. (BTW, it’s another boxed in specimen hence the reflections / flash flare).
Shenzhousaurus is known from this single beautifully preserved and excellently prepared skeleton. That on its own makes it worth showing here (as it makes quite a change from either mounted skeletons in exhibition halls, squished flat Liaoning specimens, or isolated teeth) but I suppose I should talk about the group in a bit of detail now I’ve started. I’ll wrap up with just a couple of comments on this taxon and then pick up with a more general post on the clade soon.
Hopefully you can see the small teeth preserved in the front of the jaws (it’s better in the close-up below), something only found in this animal and other basals ornithomimosaurs Pelecanimimus and Harpymimus. All other members of the clade are toothless and presumably had some kind of beak. Also just about visible are a scattering of small stones that are probably gastroliths. These are normally found in a single patch when present, but here it looks like the stomach burst and they escaped and thus are a bit spread out, but still inside the rib cage and there are no other stones like these in the block suggesting they’re genuine gastroliths.
It’s really rather well preserved and an important specimen. I keep meaning to write something on the importance of early members of clades but have never quite got around to it. Even so, hopefully you can appreciate that having an animal with a few small teeth, that descended from a group with lots of big teeth and who is a member of a clade whose later members had no teeth can really help fill in a gap and inform you about their evolution.
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