Project 2188: C. T. Griffin, S. J. Nesbitt. 2016. The femoral ontogeny and long bone histology of the Middle Triassic (?late Anisian) dinosauriformAsilisaurus kongweand implications for the growth of early dinosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 36 (3):e1111224.
Specimen: † Asilisaurus kongwe (NMT:RB211)


The ontogeny of early-diverging dinosauromorphs is poorly understood because few ontogenetic series from the same species-level taxon are known and what is available has not been extensively documented. The large numbers of skeletal elements of the silesaurid Asilisaurus kongwe recently recovered from Tanzania provide an opportunity to examine the ontogenetic trajectory of the earliest known member of Ornithodira and one of the closest relatives to Dinosauria. We examined the ontogeny of the femur and the histology of a series of long bone elements. We observed bone scar variation in a series of femora (n = 27) of different lengths (73.8–177.2 mm). We hypothesize that most femora follow a similar developmental trajectory; however we observed sequence polymorphism in the order of appearance and shape of bone scars, and we quantified this polymorphism using ontogenetic sequence analysis (OSA). Additionally, five femora, three tibiae, a fibula and humerus were thin sectioned to examine osteological tissues. No lines of arrested growth (LAG) are present in any specimen, and there is little histological information about the ontogenetic stage of femora, though none have slowed or ceased growth. The woven-fibered bone present in the cortex of elements sectioned is similar to that of the earliest dinosaurs. This sequence polymorphism provides an alternate hypothesis for the robust/gracile dichotomy found in early dinosaurs often interpreted as sexual dimorphism. The shared femoral features found in Asilisaurus and early dinosaurs suggest this ontogenetic pattern is plesiomorphic for Dinosauria, and size is a poor predictor of maturity in early dinosauriforms.

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Article DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1111224

Project DOI: 10.7934/P2188,
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    • Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)


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    Chris Griffin
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