Article: The first diplodocid from Asia and its implications for the evolutionary history of sauropod dinosaurs
An isolated anterior caudal vertebra from the Qingshan (= Ch'ing shan) Formation (Early Cretaceous) of Shandong Province, China, is redescribed and shown to be an advanced diplodocid sauropod. This specimen possesses several derived character states that are typically observed in advanced diplodocoids or diplodocids, including the following: a mildly procoelous centrum; a deep pit-like pneumatic fossa immediately below the caudal rib; wing- or fan-shaped caudal ribs; and complex lamination of the neural spine. The neural spine is apomorphically short and the centrum is short relative to its height compared to those of other diplodocids, which, when coupled with the specimen’s unique geographical location and stratigraphical age, suggests that it probably represents a new taxon. This caudal vertebra provides the first convincing evidence that diplodocids were present in Asia, perhaps as a result of the dispersal of neosauropod lineages from Europe and/or North America during the Early Cretaceous. The discovery of a member of the Diplodocidae in the Early Cretaceous also indicates that this clade did not become extinct at the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary as previously supposed.