Additional sauropod dinosaur material from the Callovian Oxford Clay Formation, Peterborough, UK: evidence for higher sauropod diversity.PeerJ. 2019; 7:e6404.P
Four isolated sauropod axial elements from the Oxford Clay Formation (Callovian, Middle Jurassic) of Peterborough, UK, are described. Two associated posterior dorsal vertebrae show a dorsoventrally elongated centrum and short neural arch, and nutrient or pneumatic foramina, most likely belonging to a non-neosauropod eusauropod, but showing ambiguous non-neosauropod eusauropod and neosauropod affinities. An isolated anterior caudal vertebra displays a ventral keel, a 'shoulder' indicating a wing-like transverse process, along with a possible prespinal lamina. This, together with an overall high complexity of the anterior caudal transverse process (ACTP) complex, indicates that this caudal could have belonged to a neosauropod. A second isolated middle-posterior caudal vertebra also shows some diagnostic features, despite the neural spine and neural arch not being preserved and the neurocentral sutures being unfused. The positioning of the neurocentral sutures on the anterior one third of the centrum indicates a middle caudal position, and the presence of faint ventrolateral crests, as well as a rhomboid anterior articulation surface, suggest neosauropod affinities. The presence of possible nutrient foramina are only tentative evidence of a neosauropod origin, as they are also found in Late Jurassic non-neosauropod eusauropods. As the caudals from the two other known sauropods from the Peterborough Oxford Clay, Cetiosauriscus stewarti and an indeterminate non-neosauropod eusauropod, do not show the features seen on either of the new elements described, both isolated caudals indicate a higher sauropod species diversity in the faunal assemblage than previously recognised. An exploratory phylogenetic analysis using characters from all four isolated elements supports a basal neosauropod placement for the anterior caudal, and a diplodocid origin for the middle caudal. The dorsal vertebrae are an unstable OTU, and therefore remain part of an indeterminate eusauropod of uncertain affinities. Together with Cetiosauriscus, and other material assigned to different sauropod groups, this study indicates the presence of a higher sauropod biodiversity in the Oxford Clay Formation than previously recognised. This study shows that it is still beneficial to examine isolated elements, as these may be indicators for higher species richness in deposits that are otherwise poor in terrestrial fauna.