A review of the Mongolian cretaceous Dinosaur Saurornithoides (Troodontidae: Theropoda)

Mark A. Norell, Peter J. Makovicky, Gabe S. Bever, Amy M. Balanoff, James M. Clark, Rinchen Barsbold, Timothy Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


We review the morphology, taxonomy, and phylogenetic relationships of the upper Cretaceous Mongolian troodontid Saurornithoides. Saurornithoides mongoliensis is known only by the holotype from Bayan Zag, Djadokhta Formation. This specimen includes a nearly complete, but weathered, skull and mandibles, a series of dorsal, sacral, and caudal vertebrae, and a partial pelvic girdle and hind limb. Saurornithoides junior, here referred to Zanabazar, also is known only by the holotype from Bugiin Tsav, Nemegt Formation. This specimen consists of a skull and partial mandible, a series of sacral and caudal vertebrae, a partial pelvic girdle, and the distal part of the right hind limb. Saurornithoides+Zanabazar is one of the few Mongolian taxa known from both the Djadokhta and Nemegt formations. The monophyly of Saurornithoides+Zanabazar has not been seriously questioned historically, yet empirical support for this clade is currently tenuous. A privileged phylogenetic relationship between Saurornithoides, Zanabazar, and the North American troodontid Troodon formosus is supported by numerous characters including the presence of a subotic recess, lateroventrally projecting and hollow basipterygoid processes, a lacrimal whose anterior process is significantly longer than its posterior process, a highly pneumatized parasphenoid rostrum, a constricted neck of the occipital condyle, a symphyseal region of the dentary that is slightly recurved medially, and an obturator process located near the middle of the ischiadic shaft. CT data for the skulls of both species facilitated a description of the endocranial anatomy of Saurornithoides mongoliensis and Zanabazar junior, including a reconstruction of the endocranial space of Zanabazar junior. Despite being the largest of the known troodontid species, the endocranial volume of Zanabazar junior is considerably smaller than that estimated for Troodon formosus, suggesting that the extremely high encephalization quotient of Troodon formosus may be autapomorphic among troodontids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-63
Number of pages63
JournalAmerican Museum Novitates
Issue number3654
StatePublished - Jun 25 2009
Externally publishedYes


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