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Keywords:

  • China;
  • Cretaceous;
  • Ornithischia;
  • Ornithopoda;
  • phylogeny;
  • Quantou Formation;
  • Yixian Formation

Abstract:  Ornithopods were the most important group of Cretaceous ornithischians and achieved high levels of abundance and taxonomic diversity. An understanding of the phylogeny, early evolution and diagnosis of the clade is hampered by a shortage of detailed anatomical descriptions of basal taxa. One of the most important basal ornithopod taxa discovered in recent years is Changchunsaurus parvus, from the Quantou Formation (‘middle’ Cretaceous) of Jilin Province, China, represented by excellent cranial and postcranial material. Here, we present the first description of the postcranial anatomy of the holotype specimen of Changchunsaurus and provide comparisons to other basal cerapodans and basal ornithopods. A phylogenetic analysis finds relationships amongst basal ornithopods to be extremely poorly resolved, but supports a sister-group relationship between Changchunsaurus and Jeholosaurus shangyuanensis from the Yixian Formation (late Barremian–early Aptian) of Liaoning Province, China. Numerous characters distinguish the two taxa, supporting their generic distinction. The proposed sister-group relationship suggests that an endemic clade of small-bodied bipedal ornithopods existed in north-east China during the Early to ‘middle’ Cretaceous.