Thyreophora, the armoured dinosaurs, are a group of diverse basal ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs known from the Lower Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous. Representatives of the group include some of the earliest-known ornithischians, and some members of the clade persisted until the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass extinction. Despite their ubiquity in Jurassic and Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems, the armoured dinosaurs remain relatively under-studied in comparison with other dinosaur groups. In particular, the origins and early evolution of the two thyreophoran clades, Stegosauria and Ankylosauria, remain contentious, because until recently the computational capacity to analyse very large cladistic datasets was non-existent, and thus the clades have never been examined together in a single phylogenetic analysis.
This project will thus examine the evolutionary history of the thyreophoran dinosaurs by building and analysing the first ever thyreophoran ‘super-matrix’. Data collection will proceed by examination of as many species as possible first-hand in museum collections around the world, and will be supplemented using the literature. Once built, the dataset will be analysed using state-of-the-art computational techniques to reconstruct thyreophoran phylogeny. The phylogeny will then be used to examine the tempo and mode of evolution in thyreophoran dinosaurs.
Funder: University of Brighton scholarship