Sunday, January 7, 2018

Crystal Ball for 2018

For 2018's first post, I once again peer into the mists of futurity and offer dinosaur-centric predictions on the year to come.

Will I once again be called upon to fight a mammoth inside a building? Well, that's always the dream.

This is going to be organized similar to last year's, the major difference being the absence of "what I'd like to see" (those haven't changed; I didn't really expect I'd get any).

Basal dinosaurs and dinosaur cousins:
I think it's safe to assume that last year's Ornithoscelida controversy is just the beginning, and that we're going to see a lot of back-and-forth before a new consensus emerges about the relationships of the major lineages of dinosaurs. As we steer directly into the land of contention, it's always helpful to remember that the closer you get to the splitting points of lineages, the harder it is to determine who's on which branch. I'm going to predict at least two publications on the relationships of the main branches, plus a new dinosaur cousin.

Non-coelurosaurian theropods:
I'm feeling "noasaurid" here for some reason, so let's say a significant publication on a noasaurid, either a new taxon or restudy of an existing taxon. Actually, I feel good about abelisaurs in general, so let's also add that there will be a significant abelisaur publication as well (not the same as the noasaurid paper; double counting would just be cheating). As for the others, I also predict a new coelophysoid-ish theropod (the "ish" to mean somewhere between the base of Neotheropoda and the base of Averostra).

I did pretty well with this one last year; doubt I'll get it that well again, but what the hey? 1) at least one new North American ornithomimid; 2) a respite from YANOs (Yet Another Nanxiong Oviraptorid), but at least one new North American oviraptorosaur; 3) a new therizinosaur; 4) a new alvarezsaur; 5) for bonus points, a new giant troodont (with all these links, I ought to just set up a page here to briefly define these groups; oh, well, another log for the fire). We've got giant ornithomimosaurs, giant oviraptorosaurs, and giant dromaeosaurs, why not a giant troodont? For credit there has to be an actual description, not just a press release, and the animal has to be at least 6 meters long.

I'm going to predict the prosauropods to hold steady. I'll roll over last year's prediction of "maybe one new taxon, plus more on the paleobiology of the usual suspects (Massospondylus and Plateosaurus)."

First off, it's been nearly three years since Brontosaurus burst back through the door. I'm a little surprised that no one has issued a formal critique, given some of the commentary at the time. Anyway, I'm predicting that 2018, like 2016, will be quiet on the "Morrison diplodocid taxonomy" front. On the other hand, I'm predicting a good year for titanosaurians: at least five new taxa.

Stegosaurs tend to travel under the radar most years, but this year I'm predicting we get something more, perhaps a major paleobiological publication, a description of an unusual new species, something that could get a bit of attention outside the field. I am also predicting news on the Late Cretaceous nodosaurs of western North America.

The basal ceratopsians shut me out last year, but I'm going to that well again and predict a new basal ceratopsian. For ceratopsids, I predict at least one new example of both centrosaurines and chasmosaurines. For pachycephalosaurs, I predict that at the end of the year we still won't know what a pachycephalosaur hand looks like.

Ornithopoda has gotten more awkward in recent years, given its sudden inability to maintain a firm grip on its basal representatives. As with the base of Dinosauria, this is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. The non-hadrosaurid iguanodonts joined the basal ceratopsians last year and skunked me, but I'll also go back to them and predict at least one new taxon. I think hadrosaurids will have a good 2018; I'm predicting at least two new saurolophines/trad hadrosaurines and another notable paleobiology publication.

Other predictions:

1) We'll clear 35 new non-avian dinosaur species again this year.

2) At least two of the remaining possibilities will come off of "Coming Attractions". For full credit, I predict that either the Nova Scotia prosauropod or the Proctor Lake hypsilophodont will be among them.

3) Someone finds a significant Western Interior Seaway "bloat-and-float" specimen, some nodosaur or hadrosaur in Kansas or Iowa or similar. It doesn't have to be described, just publicized.

4) A "Saints and Sinners Quarry" animal is described, but it's not the theropod; it's the pterosaur.

5) The Triassic comes through again and produces another bizarre, unexpected tetrapod. We got Shringasaurus last year, which looks like something from a '50s sci-fi movie. Chinlestegophis and Pectodens weren't quite as wild but are certainly not to be despised. (Also, was I the only one who saw Avicranium and thought "there's the head of Protoavis"? [note, 2018/01/09: Chinle is close enough to Dockum for me in this case])

Completely for fun: Conulariid soft tissue, allowing classification after all these years. If hyoliths can come through, why not conulariids?


  1. Though I said this the last two years, I think we can expect Lori to actually be published this year.

    I'm really hoping we get some kind of derived stegosaur that isn't from the Morrison, instead from some Cretaceous rocks.

    1. Oh yeah, and I really hope we get a break from the YANOs. There is no way all of the ones named so far are valid.

    2. Yeah, I thought about Lori, but it came down to the feeling that if someone said it was coming out (and Mickey Mortimer said the paper was nearly ready for submission over at The Theropod Database Blog), it wouldn't be much a prediction on my part.

      A Cretaceous stegosaur would be nice (we know about Wuerhosaurus, so why not a Yixian form? Surely in all that time one might have keeled over and floated into a lake?).

      To be fair to the YANOs, the Nanxiong isn't dated all that well yet, so conceivably we might be looking at a smaller number of discrete lineages over a few million years. Also, they weren't huge animals, so it's not quite as wild to think they may have had a significant radiation (although it would certainly be easier if they were rodent-sized!).

  2. There's a chance that several dinosaur genera may be sunk this year - just as Opisthocoelicaudia was essentially (but AFAIK not formally) found to be a junior synonym of Nemegtosaurus last year. Some potential synonyms have been hinted at, but need a bit more material to seal the deal (Miragaia/Dacentrurus, Nomingia/Elmisaurus, Deltadromeus/Bahariasaurus).... maybe this is the year for at least one of these.

    2018 might be make-or-break for the "Toroceratops" hypothesis. Hope so... this thing needs resolving (e.g. osteohistology of Triceratops vs Torosaurus specimens).

    Agree on the possibility of a new noasaurid. There's a few floating around in the ether. (This doesn't include the possibility that Afromimus is re-described as a noasaurid or related ceratosaur.)

    On the stegosaur front, maybe Dravidosaurus will be confirmed as a Late Cretaceous stegosaur. Material from the Dravidosaurus type quarry is apparently under active study.

    The enigmatic Yandangornis could finally find a home. Is it a basal bird, or a very bird-like non-avian theropod?

    1. We've definitely been on the "splitter" side of the dial for a while, albeit with a few notable exceptions.

    2. Tell me about it, the ceratopsians are ridiculous.