Cranial osteology of Beipiaosaurus inexpectus (Theropoda: Therizinosauria)
LIAO Chun-Chi，XU Xing
Abstract Beipiaosaurus inexpectus, a key taxon for understanding the early evolution of therizinosaurians, has not been fully described since it was briefly reported on by Xu, Tang and Wang in 1999. Here we present a detailed description of the cranial anatomy of the holotype of this theropod dinosaur. B. inexpectus is unique in some of its cranial features such as the postorbital process of the frontal is large and its abrupt transition from the orbital rim, a long and sharp anterior process of the parietal, the elongate ventral ramus of the squamosal process of parietal, and external mandibular fenestra deep dorsoventrally and extremely posteriorly located. A number of plesiomorphic cranial features (such as relatively large dentary and less downturned degree of dentary symphysis) suggest that B. inexpectus is an early-branching Therizinosaurian, as proposed by previous studies. New information derived from our study is not only important for our understanding of the cranial anatomy of B. inexpectus but also significant to the study of the evolution of Therizinosauria.
Key words Beipiao, Liaoning, Early Cretaceous, Theropoda, Therizinosauria, cranial osteology