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Speculations on Dixon’s New Dinosaurs

Classifying The New Dinosaurs for Spec World

By Laura M. Henson

In 1988 paleontologist, Dougal Dixon wrote a book called The New Dinosaurs: an Alternative Evolution. This book was a
hypothesis of how evolution would have ended up if the mass extinction 65 million years ago had never took place.
Unfortunately, his book was based on the taxonomy of the early 1980’s when many dinosaur groups and genera were lumped
into taxonomic wastebaskets. It is mainly for this reason that his book contains a few suggestions inconsistent with current
scientific knowledge. A good example of this is the family Coeluridae. In the 1980s, the coelurids were a very large and
generalized group of theropods so it was natural for Dixon to make them ancestral to most of his coelurosaurs. Today we
know that the Coeluridae of the 1980s was an unnatural group containing coelopysids, compsognatids, ornitholestians and
even a few crocodiles! Today the family contains only two Jurassic genera. Another mistake is that Dixon’s Pterosaurs
replace birds in dominance, though we now know that pterosaurs were declining rapidly before the mass extinction ever took

The Speculative Dinosaur Project) is an advanced version of The New Dinosaurs concept published on the web by Daniel
Bensen, Brian Choo, David Marjanovic (et all), has been in the works since 2003 and is still being updated. In this paper, I
will use the cladistic interpretation of modern taxonomy to merge Dixon’s world with Spec. If some creatures do not seem to
have a place on Spec (such as living pterosaurs and pachycephalosaurs) then perhaps, they have not yet been found, after all
Spec is still being explored.


African Megalosaurs

Dixon had two modern species of Megalosaurus in his book, something that would be extremely unlikely given modern
knowledge. First of all the Megalosauridae of the 1980’s was a paraphyletic group, defined mostly by shared primitive
features, and hence not considered valid in the current, cladistic, paradigm. Even worse, the type species of Megalosaurus
was known from such fragmentary material that the name became something of a taxonomic wastebasket, and there is some
doubt now among paleontologists whether it even is a valid genus. Finally, no member of this family survived into the
Cretaceous period, though the related fish-eating Spinosaurids did. Thus, Dixon’s animals could not be Megalosaurus or
even Megalosaurids. I thus think it is appropriate to rename Dixon’s genus Neomegalosaurus that means, appropriately,
“New Megalosaurus”.

In Spec Africa, however, can be found “big, scaly monsters, knobbed with horns and spines, gnashing razor teeth and
bellowing their ancient anger across the plains“. These scaly horrors are Abelisaurs a kind of dinosaur derived from
dinosaurs like Ceratosaurus. Abelisaurs were generalized predators that were so similar to Megalosaurs that Gregory S.
Paul’s Predatory Dinosaurs of the World placed them in the same family. Originating in the Jurassic, abelisauroids retained
their dominance in South America, Madagascar, India and Africa right up until the end of the Cretaceous.

The main Spec Abelisauroid family, the Priscatauridae cannot be relatives of Dixon’s “Megalosaurus” as their forelimbs are
too reduced but the Noasauridae also exist on Spec Earth. Noasaurids are best known for the genus Noasaurus that had short,
but strong arms with respectable talons and feet with sickle claws evolved independently from the deinonychosaurs, but
presumably used for the same purpose. However, not all Noasaurids had sickle claws. The Chinese Middle Jurassic
Chuandongocoelurus, late Jurassic Elaphrosaurus, and the Cretaceous Velocisaurus were all small featherless runners
without sickle claws. On Spec, Earth two measured clades are described: the historic sickle clawed Noasaurinae (the Cain)
and the uniquely Spec clade of ant-eating Kagruinae.

Clearly, Dixon’s Neomegalosaurs could not be members of either Spec clade but must belong to a third subfamily: the
Neomegalosaurinae, which parallels the Priscataurids of the mainland.

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On Spec, the Tyrannosauroia is the dominant clade of the northern hemisphere but in Dixon’s book only a single species, the
South American Gourmand (Ganeosaurus tardus) appears. The Gourmand is a tyrannosaur in which the forelimbs have
entirely disappeared and armor plating has developed on the body. The native spec tyrannosaurs belong to the family
Errosauridae that is divided into the conventional northern hemisphere Errosaurinae, the circumpolar sabre-toothed
Smilotyranninae, and the Neotropical Nototyranninae. As it is a South American Tyrannosaur, the Gourmand must belong to
the Nototyranninae.

The Gourmand shares more than just habitat with the Nototyrannines however. First of all Nototyrannines posses less
plumage than their northern cousins, with some being almost bald, and secondly they have unique feet with only the two
outer toes remaining. Both of these features are also found in the Gourmand though the Gourmand is more primitive in
retaining its halux and the gigantic size of its smilotyrannine ancestors. These ancestors competed with and lost their top
predator niche to the hesperonychid deinonychosaurs and as a result, most Nototyrannines (or cazadins) are relegated to the
small, running-predator niches that are have traditionally belonged to the deionychosaurs. The Gourmand is the exception to
this rule and has been able to retain its large size by losing its adaptations for speed and changing to a primarily scavenging
mode of life.

Australian Coelurosaurs

It is obvious that Dixon’s Australian “Coelurids” are among the 40-odd species of Spec Cedunasauria. This clade is the main
linage of Australasian theropods and is an extremely varied group of animals characterized by the loss of the hallux, the lack
of true feathers and primitive-style forelimbs. Of Dixon’s genera, it is clear that the Dingum (Velludorsum venenum) and the
Pouch (Saccosaurus spp.) are members of the family Cedunasauridae, though the pouch may deserve its own subfamily. As
for the Cribrum (Cribrusaurus rubicundus), it most likely belongs to the Chimerasauridae and is the ecological equivalent to
the prehistoric Gallimimus (or the real Earth flamingo) as opposed to Chimerasaurus, which is equivalent to Gallimimus’s
herbivorous relative Ornithomimus or the real earth Ostrich.


Of all of Dixon’s dinosaurs, the Arbrosaurs are the easiest to classify, as they are clearly the same as Spec Earth’s
Arbronychosauroidea, a super family of the Deinonychosauria, indeed the majority even belong to known Spec families.
These clades and their Dixon species are as follows:

Arbronychosauridae (Moulongs and tree lurks of the Old World)

Arbronychosaurids are characterized by unusually limber tails (especially for deinonychosaurs), turning the appendage into
an extremely mobile pole that may be twisted at almost any angle relative to the body. This modified tail is allows a jumping
arbronychosaur to shift its center of balance and alter direction in mid-leap.

Tree hopper (Arbrosaurus bernardi) African tree leaper

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Flurrit (Labisaurus alatus) an oriental tree leaper that glides in a fashion much like the real Earth Colugo.

Pacififonychidae (Island arbros, blue-winged arbros, and fruit-arbros of South America)

Pacifonychids are similar to the arbronychosaurids in appearance and could even be mistaken for Old-World species though
they lack the limber tail of the Old-World arbros. One subfamily (the fruit-arbros of genus Pacifonyx) is unique in being
large, arboreal fruit-eaters.

Nauger (Picusaurus terebradens) woodpecker like insectivore with uniquely elongated finger. However, it is possible that
this species is a derived Strigosaurid.

Strigosauridae (Skreechers and saltaritas of South America)

Strigosaurids make up the bulk of Neotropical arbronychosauroids and are medium-sized-to-tiny predators with distinctive
dish-shaped faces and relatively short tails. All strigosaurids also have asymmetrically placed ears that allow them to pinpoint
the origin of a sound in three dimensions with tremendous accuracy. All are arboreal ambush predators that leap from higher
branches onto the prey. The smallest are insectivorous while larger species prey on birds, lizards, and small mammals. North
American species probably migrated to the north during the ice age.

Treepounce (Raminsidius jacksoni) this ocelot-like animal from North American is an arboreal ambush predator with highly
developed ears.

Footle (Currerus elegans) a tiny North American insectivorous arbrosaur.

Scaly Glider (Pennasaurus volans) a South American species that glides on broad flattened “scales” which it uses to pounce
on butterflies.

Vespagadae (the Tube Snouts)

The vespagids are a family unique to Dixon’s world that is characterized by their unusual muzzle shape in which the bones of
the skull have become fused into a narrow armored tube equipped with an extremely long and protrudable tongue. An
additional trait unique to this clade is that the long hair-like feathers possessed by the ancestral Arbronychosaurid have fused
together to form “scales” which protect them from the stings of their insect prey. Two species are insect eaters but the third
has become a nectar feeder much like the Real Earth hummingbird. Their ancestry in uncertain but I feel that their rather
short tails makes them to most likely be allied with the Strigosauridae.

Waspeater (Vespaga parma) is an African arboreal species that feeds on wasps and bees.

Pangaloon (Filarmura tuburostra) is a pangolin-like South American species that feeds on ants.

Gimp (Melexsorbius parvus) a tiny, nectar eater from South America.

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Dixon’s Deinonychosaurs

Dixon details two species of deinonychosaur which he describes as saurornihoids (a group which is actually a junior
synonym of Troodontidae) because he believed that the dromaeosaurs were dying out in the late Cretaceous. Today of
course, we know that just the opposite was true and it is clear that Dixon’s “saurornithoids” actually belong to Spec’s
troodon-like deinonychodaurs: the mattaraptoroidea. Mattaraptoroidea includes seven full families of which only two needs
to be involved in this chapter.

Hesperonychidae (Jagulars, magnoraptors, and djanada)

Hesperonychids are a handful of New World genera found in central and eastern North America, as well as South and
Central America. Dixon’s Springe (Necrosimulacrum avilaqueum) an Florida swamp dwelling form that plays dead to fool
scavenging birds and pterosaurs to approach close enough to grasp is probably a member of this family.

Boreonychidae (Draks)

The most common of the deinonychosaurs, draks occupy virtually all medium-sized predator niches in Africa, Eurasia, and
North America. Draks are often heavily plumed and many bear the large teeth and relatively small sickle-claws. Its similarity
to the Polar Drak leads me to believe that Dixon’s Jinx (Insinuosaurus strobofagoforme) of the Eurasian taiga is a member of
this family.


The New Dinosaurs only describes two true birds, both inhabiting the icy tundra of the old world. I will describe both and
attempt to place them in known Spec clades.

The Whiffle (Adescator rotundus) is a small flightless bird which is either a derived charadriiforme (possibly a sandpiper) or
a very basal pickpecker of the Spec order Spadaviforms that has not yet developed the unusual wood-boring beak of that
clade. It follows herbivore herds and feeds on the insects stirred up by the larger animals.

The Tromble (Gravornis borealis) is a gigantic flightless anseriform similar, but unrelated, to the giganatids of Spec’s New
Zealand. Like the giga ducks, the plumage of the tromble has become hair-like and shaggy, there is very long gut, and the
feet have lost all trace of webbing. Unlike the lawnmoas and their kin, however the tromble has completely lost its wings
and, as flightless insular ducks and geese have evolved multiple times on Home-Earth, it should be put in its own family: the
Gravornithidae. It is most likely that the gravornithids are more closely allied to the Anatidae (true ducks and geese) as
opposed to the gigaduck’s relationship to the southern hemisphere magpie geese and screamers.

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Dixon’s Other Coelurosaurs

Dixon describes several “coelurids” that are clearly not mattaraptors as they lack the sickle-claw and have long, shaggy hair-
like feathers. Most likely, these species belong to clade Archaeoplumia. In Spec, this group includes only two genera the
African Archaeopluma and the Indian Echinornithoides. Despite their lack of sickle-claws or true feathers, this clade was
previously classified as mattiraptors.

Dixon’s Archaeopluma clearly falls into two natural groups, a clade of New World cursorial predators and an
African/Oriental clade of burrowers.

Dixon has five sauropods (two African, one Asian, and two South American) in his book. All of these genera belong to the
clad Titanosauria and both the African and the Asian species clearly belong to the same families as Spec’s Titanosaurs.

Neobrachiddae (Gihugrongos)

Gihugrongos are high-browsing titanosaurs that convergently resemble the brachiosaurid sauropods of the Mesozoic. In
Spec, several extinct and two living species are known. These two species are the dry forest gihugrongos (Neobrachius
altissimus) of the African tree savannas and the larger rainforest gihugrongo of the Congo Basin. Dixon’s two African
species: the Titanosaur (Altosaurus maximus) and Dwarf Titanosaur (Virgultasaurus minimus) both seem to belong to this
family but as their forelegs are not elongate; they are clearly more primitive than the Gihugrongos.

Neotitanosauridae (Grassbags)

Grassbags are the giant grazing sauropods of the grasslands and savannahs. In Spec, two grassbag species reside in Africa,
and one in Eurasia but only one, the Bandersnatch Grassbag of Africa, is described. Obviously, Dixon’s Indian Rajaphant
(Gregisaurus titanops) is the Eurasian form.

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Acrotitanosauridae (South American Sauropods)

The South American Titanosaurs are much more problematic. In Spec, a diverse community of titanosaurian sauropods
thrived in South America but died out at the end of the Oligocene. Taking their place are the pachamacs, gigantic
hypsilophodontian dinosaurs that look like mirror images of sauropods. However, Dixon’s sauropods are not pachamacs as
they lack that clades ornithopod dentition. Luckily, there is a way around this conundrum. According to Dixon, most of
South America’s sauropods did indeed die out due to competition with animals from the north and the two he mentions are
the last survivors that endure only because of extreme specializations.

The last American sauropods should be placed in their own family, as they are similar to the grassbags of Africa in their
adaptations for grazing but evolved from separate ancestors. The name I chose was derived from the last known Spec-
neotropical genus Acrotitan. The living species described by Dixon are the heavily armored Turtosaur (Turotosaurus
armadas) and the trunk-snouted Lumber (Elephasaurus giganteus).

Basal Ornithopods
The majority of both Dixon’s and Spec’s Ornithopods are descended from the group once called the Hypsilophodontidae.
This family of small basal ornithopods has since been shown to be paraphyletic with some genera being closer to Iguanodon
and others to Hypsilophodon. Today the evolution of the ornithopoda is considered much more complex as one can see from
the cladogram below.

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Both Dixon’s and Spec’s ornithopods fall within two major groups one descended from the true Hypsilophodontids and one
from the Antarctornithopods. Most of Dixon’s ornithopods differ quite a bit from the known Spec clades, usually in retaining
primitive characters such as a five-fingered manus; however, one can place Dixon’s species within known clades without
much difficulty.


On Spec, the Antarctornithopoda are the dominant group of Australasian ornithopods and are descended from animals like
Atlascopcosaurus and Qantassaurus. Antarctornithopods include the Euclasauria and possibly the Rhynchoraptoria. Of these
two groups, only the Chlorosaurid family of Euclasaurs concerns us here.

Euclasauria, Family Chlorosauridae (Chlorosaurs)

The chlorosaurids are generally small swift and lightly built runners resembling small lambasaurine hadrosaurs. They have a

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hollow crests are made of keratin that usually slants backwards and is blue in color, at least in breeding males. Some
chlorosaurids are quadruped but most are bipedal. Dixon’s Gwanna (Gryllusaurus flavus) is clearly a member of this family
but differs in having such primitive features as a five toed manus (though two fingers are reduced) and body proportions
similar to the primitive Proeuclasauridae of Malaysia and northern Australia.


The true hypsilophodonts make up the majority of Dixon’s small ornithopods and his taxa can easily be placed with Spec’s
two Hypsilophodont clades the Neodryosaurs and the Viriosaurs.


Neodryosaurs are small ornithopods in Australasia, Madagascar, and southern Asia that closely resemble the iguanodontian
dryosaurids. Appearances can be deceptive, however and these little beasts are actually derived from the Patagonian
Thescelosaur Gasparinisaura.

Dendrosauridae (Brumtumblers, prefects, puusa mölies and Multipolexines)

Dendrosaurs are a group of fairly large, long-legged tree-climbers found in Asia and northern Australia. They are unique in
having crenulated pads on their feet, which allow them to grasp onto vertical surfaces. Many, but not all, have an Iguanodon-
like thumb-spike used for defense or for puncturing and scraping large fruits. Three of Dixon’s species are clearly members
of this family but differ in lacking the thumb-spike and retaining a five fingered manus in which both the first and fifth finger
are opposable for grasping branches. This “two-thumbed” offshoot of the dendrosaurs deserves their own subfamily,
Multipollexinae, to distinguish them from the more conventional Denrosaurinae.

The Taddey (Multipollex moffati) of the orient is a bulky, slow-moving, panda-like species that feeds on bamboo.

The Crackbeak (Fortirostrum fructiphagum) is an Australian species with a hornbill-like crest that closely resembles the
Spec brumtumblers of genus Trichosaurus. It specializes in hard nuts and fruits.

The Tubb (Pigescandens robustus) is another Australian form but is slow- moving and bulky like the Taddey instead of
slender and long legged like the crackbeak. A koala-like animal feeds on eucalyptus leaves.


Viriosaurs closely resemble such late-Cretaceous ornithopods as Thescelosaurus but lack teeth on the premaxilla, bearing an
iguanodont-like battery of beak and ridged, grinding cheek teeth. The majority of Dixon’s hypsilophodonts belong to this

Viriosauridae (Viries)

Viriosaurids are a family of small, bipedal herbivores with and an enlarged inner toe. Dixon’s viriosaurs can be divided into
two subfamilies the Nivesaurines and the Viriosaurines. The Nivesaurine (snow lizards) are primitive viries with five
fingered forepaws and include the coneater and balaclav. The Viriosaurines are the typical viries as given in Spec with four-
fingered hands, although digits IV and I are often reduced.

The coneater (Strobofagus borealis) this snow lizard but inhabits the cold taiga of Eurasia. Unlike its cousin the balaclav,
coneaters lack thick fur but use thick blubber to keep warm.

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The Balaclav (Nivesaurus yetiforme) is a snow lizard of the Canadian mountains shares a five fingered manus with the
Coneater but differs in having an iguanodon-like thumb spike which it uses to dig up alpine plants and in being covered with
thick black “fur“.

The debaril (Harenacurrerus velocipes) is a true virie that inhabits the deserts of Mongolia.

The Hanuhan (Grimposaurus pernipes) is a close relative of the debaril and inhabits the Himalayan Mountains.

Vanguardidae (false ankylosaurs)

Vanguards resemble ankylosaurs but are actually close relatives of the viries and like them are descendants of
Thescelosaurus. Outward resemblance to their hypsilophodontian ancestors is limited to the vanguard's head as their bodies
are large, supported by four pillar-like legs and covered with armor. Most vanguards have backs covered with spines as in
nodosaurs but the Dita (Vangaurda) has armor consisting mostly of plates and has a spiny club at the end of its tail like an
ankylosaurid. Vanguards inhabit the deserts and deciduous forests of North America and Asia.

The Taranter (Herbasaurus armatus) of Mongolia, while described by Dixon as a surviving ankylosauid is more likely a
vanguard. Characters in favor of a vanguard identity are the elongated neck and small spiny tail club. It differs from the
American vanguards in having armor that has become more important for conserving moisture than for defense though the
sides are still covered with spikes.

Laticanidae (duckgongs)

Laticanids or duckgongs are peculiarly specialized hypsilophodonts adapted for living in water much like manatees and are
found in North America, Africa, and Asia. Some Spec scientists ally them to Thescelosaurus but others believe they are
specialized antarctornithopods. Dixon believed they were paraphyletic with the American forms being related to viries and
the Asian to neodryosaurs.

The Watergulp (Fluvisaurus hauristus) of the Amazon River is clearly a member of this family and is very similar to the
Florida duckgong Laticanatis floridensis, differing only in having a longer and deeper tail.

The Glub (Lutasaurus anacrusus) of the mangrove swamps of India is also a clear member of this family but this species is
much more derived in having lost its hind legs and developed a thumb-spike for digging up water plants.

Dixon placed all his hadrosaurs in a single family: the Sprintosauriridae. This family is characterized by adoptions for
feeding on grass in the open plains such as long, ungulate-like limbs and specialized teeth. However, Dixon himself points
out that this family is an unnatural group with the crested sprintosaurs and Eurasian bricket being descended from
lambeosaurine hadrosaurs and the non-crested sprintosaurs being descended from hadrisaurines. In Spec, hadrosaurid
evolution is much more complex with the non-crested hadrosaurines dominating in the new world and the crested forms
descended from basal hadrosaurs inhabiting the old world.

Examining Spec’s crestless hadrosaur families it is clear that Dixon’s non-crested sprintosaurs (Vexillosaurus levipes) is a
derived Stellosaurid as it had the same graceful elongated limbs and long (yet thin) tail as Spec’s common grasbuck
(Gramesaurus americanus).

The crested Sprintosaurs of genera Sprintosaurus and Ancoracephalus are harder to place for Spec describes no crested

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hadrosaurs from the Americas. However, the clade Ungulapedia from the old world is very similar to the crested
sprintosaurs, especially the members of the family Formosicornidae. Among the formosicorns, the subfamily Ealinae of
eastern Asia is the closest to the crested sprintosaurs, differing only in retaining the long tail of the ancestral hadrosaurs. The
crested sprintosaurs are thus a subfamily, Sprintosaurinae, which wandered across the Bering Straight during the Ice Age and
colonized the short grass prairies of the northwestern Americas much as the elk (Cervus canadensis) did on Real Earth. A
close relative of the crested sprintosaurs is the bricket (Rubusaurus petasus) which falls nicely into the Spec subfamily
Cornolophinae, a group of long tailed, deer-like browsers from Eurasia.

The marginocephalia are those dinosaurs that have a ridge of bone on the back of the skull. In ceratopsians, this ridge forms a
frill while in pacycephalosaurs it forms a thickened skullcap. In Dixon’s book, one ceratopsian and two pachycephalosaurs
are described. There is a problem with placing these animals in Spec clades, however as both groups to which they are
related are extinct on Spec. However, perhaps word of their demise has been greatly exaggerated.

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The Monocorn (Monocornus occidentalis) is the only ceratopsian remaining in North America. It is a member of the
Cenoceratopsian clade Plateocerota. It is clearly a member of the supposedly extinct monocerotidae, a North American
family of giant ceratopsians related to the Asian Dawnhorns.


On Spec, the pachycephalosaurs are extinct for unknown reasons. The last member of the clade was the "Sz"(Baropecudis) a
homalocephalid.in which the females had a single horn. Dating from the Late Paleocene or Early Eocene it is the youngest
known pachycephalosaur on Spec. However, two surviving species were descried by Dixon: one a derived homalocephalid
and the other an apparent pachycephalosaurid.

The Gestalt (Formisaura delacasa) of Europe seems to be a very small homalocephalid specialized for living in hive like
colonies inside nests places over the water much like a cross between a beaver and a mole rat.

The Numbskull (Sphaeracephalus riparus) of the Orient is the only other living pachycephalosaur and its dome-shaped skull
indicates it is a true pachycephalosaurid. It is a conservative creature much like its Mesozoic ancestors.

Non-Dinosaurian Taxa


Dixon describes several pterosaurs in his book, a fact that is distinctly at odds with Spec-world’s fauna. On Spec the

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pterosaurs are extinct with the last species Gigantala cranitus (a small azdarchid) dating from the late Paleocene. How did
Dixon’s pterosaurs survive? Well, unlike Spec, Dixon proposed that none of the various factors that caused the dinosaurs to
die out took place, not just the asteroid impact negated on Spec. Luckily for fans of Spec-world Dixon’s pterosaurs can all fit
into a single family whose members are found in remote and little explored habitats making them simply overlooked by
conventional Specologists.

Dixon’s pterosaurs are all members of the Superorder Pterodactyloidea (the short-tailed pterosaurs), a group with four
Orders: the Ctenochasmatoidea (Jurassic pterodactyls), Dsungaripteroidea (Jurassic to Early Cretaceous forms typified by
Germanodactylus and Dsungaripterus), Azhdarchoidea (large toothless Cretaceous forms such as Lonchodectes, Tapejara,
and Quetzalcoatlus), and the very diverse Cretaceous Ornithocheiroidea. Dixon’s pterosaurs descend from this last clade.

Ornithocheiroidea is divided into two Suborders the Istiodactylidae (which contains only the duck-billed Istiodactylus) and
the advanced Euornithocheira. The Euornithocheira is in turn divided into two Infraorders, the toothless Pteranodontia
(containing the Pteranodontidae and Nyctosauridae) and the toothed Ornithosauria. As Dixon’s pterosaurs are toothed, they
must be ornithosaurs.

Ornithosaurs include four families that are separated depending on what type of crest they have. The Anhangueridae (typified
by Anhanguera and Colobororhynchus) have a crest on the tip of the upper jaw. The Criorhynchidae (Criorynchus and
Tropeognathus) have rounded crests at the tip of both the upper and lower jaw. The recently discovered Ludodactylidae
(Ludodactylus and Caulkicephalus) resemble horror movie Pteranodons with crests on the back of the skull and beaks full of
wicked-looking teeth. However, the most numerous and wide ranging family in both time and space, was the

Ornithocheirids were a toothed but crestless family that lived from the late Jurassic to the latest cretaceous. This family
contained such genera as Brasileodacyylus, Haopterus, Liaoningopterus and Ornithocheirus, the last named genus alone
containing dozens of species. As the all of the pterosaurs in Dixon’s book are crestless and toothed, I have placed all Dixon’s
pterosaurs into this family.

The modern ornithocheirids fall neatly into three clades: primitive forms that retain a cruropatagium, Heron-like forms that
have lost the cruropatagium and bizarre flightless pterosaurs with grass grazing dentition. The first group is obviously not
monophyletic and can be divided into two subfamilies: the Harpyianae and the Pinalanae. The second group and third group
respectively I have placed in the monophyletic subfamilies Pterocoluminae and Herbafaginae.


The Harpyianae contains the Harridan (Harpyia latala) of the Andes Mountains of South America. While the harridan
resembles its ornithocheirine ancestors in retaining a cruropatagium it differs in so many respects that it deserves a separate
subfamily. Harridans have wings that attach to its flanks instead of the legs as in primitive ornithocherines, a feature found in
all modern ornithosaurs (except for an unnamed Asian pterosaur [found in the painting of the Rajaphant on pages 80-81 in
Dixon’s book] which is a dead ringer for the Mesozoic genus Ornithocheirus), but that is not what makes it unique. The
unique features of the Harridan are two additional wing membranes attaching to the elongated second and third fingers of
each hand and in having a cruropatagium that is divided into two additional wings attached to the legs and supported by a
very long first toe.


The Pinalanae contains only the Plunger (Pinala fusiforme) found only upon an unnamed oceanic island in the southern
hemisphere. Unfortunatly for Dixon Spec contains a great many penguin species, including giant carnivorous forms, which
would have prevented the establishment of this family in the southern hemisphere. Alas, the northern hemisphere contains
the equally penguin-like Seaguins, a group of toothed diving birds belonging to the order Hesperornithiformes. Perhaps this
puzzle can be solved by restricting the Seaguins to the Pacific. I this case Dixon was mistaken by the penguin-like
appearance of this animal and it actually inhabits the north Atlantic where it would take the niche of recently exterminated
great auk of the real world. The Plunger has wings that have become thick paddles with only its three finger claws and
cruropatagium (which connects its webbed feet, legs and tail together into a single swimming paddle) betraying its ancestry.

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The Pterocoluminae is a subfamily united by the loss of the cruropatagium, which has freed the limbs and has allowed the
legs to become elongated. These long legs have freed them of the clumsy waddling gait of their ancestors and the result is an
animal that resembles a wading bird so closely that it is likely that this is the reason the clade was overlooked for so long on

The most primitive of the pterocolumines is the Shore Runner (Brevalus insularis) of the Galapagos Islands. This small
species lacks a cruropatagium but otherwise resembles its short-legged cretaceous ancestors. The most unique thing about
this beast is its atrophied wings that make it completely flightless.

The Soar (Cicollum angustalum) is another primitive species whose legs are relatively short the proportions of the limbs
being more like a sandpiper than like a heron. With its long wings, the soar may spend days at sea much like the modern
albatross. Unlike that bird, however, the soar has a long head and neck like its inland cousins the Paraso and Sift.

The most advanced of the Pterocoluminae is the Sift (Pterocolum rubicundum) of North America and the Paraso (Umbrala
solitara) of Indonesia. Both are heron-like swamp dwellers with very long legs and beaks full of tiny but sharp teeth used to
grasp fish and sift the mud for invertebrates.


The Herbafaginae is a diverse subfamily of flightless pterosaurs united by possessing dentition specialized for grazing and
the complete lack of a cruropatagium. While the various members of this clade are so diverse as to seem to belong to wholly
unrelated groups the fact that grass, with its covering of hard silica, is largely indigestible and requires both a specialized
digestive system and flat grinding teeth indicates that it is a monophyletic group. Indeed I find it hard to believe that these
adaptations could have arose independently in several pterosaur lineages especially considering the simple spike-like
piscivorous teeth of the ancestral pterosaur. More likely, the grinding teeth of the Herbafagines first appeared in a now
extinct flying ancestor whose descendants spread around the world and eventually gave rise to the living flightless species
described by Dixon.

The most primitive herbafagine is the Flarp (Vexillala robusta) of the African plains. While often compared to the real world
ostrich this species is actually much more similar to a small antelope due to its grazing habits. It is the only herbafagine to
retain its wings, though they have been reduced to a mere flap of skin used for displaying to mates and signaling the herd.

The Lank (Herbafagus longicollum) is a truly unique pterosaur that has completely lost the wing membrane. The elongated
wing-finger is now tipped with a hoof used as front legs. With its long neck, reticulated coloring and four legs the lank is
superficially similar in appearance to the real world giraffe or Spec’s hadrosaurine ciraf (Ciraphadrus longicervix). Unlike
the giraffe and ciraf, which are very tall high-browsers, the lank is a mere six feet high and mostly a grazer, thus it is actually
more similar to the African gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) a long-necked gazelle found in the real world. It is possible that the
coloring of the lank is a type of protective mimicry, making look like a juvenile of the much larger ciraf and thus causing
predators to think twice in case an overprotective giant parent is nearby.

The final two herbafagine taxa are the Kloon (Perdalus rufus) and the Wandle (Pervagarus altus) of the islands of New
Guinea. Both of these pterosaurs are grass grazers that have completely lost their wings making them look rather like horse-
headed kiwi birds. Two to six feet long, these shaggy pterosaurs inhabit the undergrowth and feed on low-growing plants.

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Sea Reptiles

Dixon described three sea reptiles in his book: the Whulk, Birdsnatcher, and Pelorus. He identified the Birdsnatcher as a
plesiosauroid plesiosaur and the other two species as pliosauroids. We now know that the short and long necked body shape
evolved several times in the plesiosaur family tree and that the Plesiosaurs and pliosaurs known to Dixon were polyphyletic.
A quick review of pliosaur relationships shows that the long-necked Rhomalosaurids (including Thalassiodracon)are closely
related to the classic short-necked Pliosauroids and that the supposedly long-necked elasmosaur clade also contains the short-
necked and long-jawed Polycotylidae (Ceraumasaurus, Dolichorhynchops, Georgiasaurus, Polycotylus, Trinacromerum &
possibly Tricleidus). Today the clades are told apart by flipper configuration with the pliosauroids having the hind flippers
longer than the fore flippers and the plesiosauroids being exactly the opposite. As all of Dixon’s sea reptiles have longer fore-
flippers than hind flippers even the virtually neck less Whelk must be considered a plesiosauroid.

However, are these animals actually plesiosaurs? In Spec World, mosasaurs continued to flourish and diversify while the
elasmosaurs and polycotylids died out. Could Dixon’s sea monsters be aberrant mosasaurs? This is a definite possibility,
especially for the Whulk and Pelorus. If further study shows that they are indeed mosasaurs then they most probably belong
to the family Saurocetidae: the lizard whales.

If Dixon’s sea reptiles are plesiosauroids then it seems likely that the Whelk (Insulasaurus oceanus) is a descendant of the
Cryptocleididae. Cryptocleidids had rather long necks but their teeth formed a filter-trap for feeding on plankton and very
small fish. As the whelk adapted to this diet it developed a larger mouth, and thus a larger head so reduced the length of the
neck. If it is a Mosasaur than it seems most likely, that it is a close cousin of the mosapoise (Phocoenalacerta nigra). Its
plankton diet does not make it compete with Spec’s Baleen-squid anymore than whales compete with mega-mouth sharks on
the real Earth.

The Pelorus (Piscisaurus sicamalus) on the other hand most likely belongs to the Polycotlidae as it has the rather short neck
and long jaws with crocodilian teeth possessed by that family. In the remote possibility that the pelorus is a mosasaur than it
would be a Saurocetine. Saurocetines, or long nosed Lizard-whales, are characterized by their narrow snouts with teeth that
are sparsely arranged unserrated pegs. Most Spec Saurocetines resemble ichthyosaurs or dolphins in appearance but perhaps
a basal linage developed a longer neck to take advantage of the ecological niches once held by the plesiosaurs.

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The Birdsnatcher (Raperasaurus velocipinus) may be a more conservative Cryptocleidid that elongated its neck for taking on
the ecological niche once held by the Jurassic-Cretaceous plesiosaurs. A clue to this ancestry is the many very small (though
sharp) teeth in the Birdsnatchers mouth that are very different from the few large forward pointing fangs of true elasmosaurs.
The Birdsnatcher seems somewhat similar to the Hobb’s leviathan (Gigantoserpens) but this is probably convergence as the
Leviathan actually has a very short neck. What appears to be a small head with large ears on a long neck in the Hobb’s
Leviathan is actually a head with two short fore flippers on the front of a long trunk attached to bulbous hindquarters. If a
mosasaur, it is probably a relative of the Pelorus that has elongated the neck even further.


Dixon only describes a single mammal, the Zwim (Naremys platycaudus). Despite its old world range, this foot long
amphibious insectivore most likely belongs to the Eulipotyphla family Erebidae. The toxic saliva and rather large size
indicates this classification and it most probably deserves a separate subfamily from the American hellrats.


Dixon describes two ammonites in his book, the Coconut Grab (Nuctocerus litureperus) and the Kraken (Giganticeras
fluitarus). These two species belong to separate but already known Spec families. The Kraken belongs to the family
Speroconidae as is shown by the fact that it is a passive feeder that floats just below the surface of the water, trailing its 12
tentacles in which the suckers have been modified into flexible tendrils. The Coconut Grab on the other hand is most
probably a primitive salmonite (family Oncoriteuthidae) which has not yet become totally adapted for freshwater but can
venture onto land for prolonged periods. While no mention is made of Coconut Grabs migrating to fresh water The
Salmonite Run chapter of the Speculative Dinosaur project details how some salmonites can haul themselves out of the water
and climb trees just as the coconut Grab does.


The New Dinosaurs: an Alternative Evolution by Dougal Dixon ©1988

The Speculative Dinosaur Project: www.bowdoin.edu/~dbensen/Spec

Paleos: www.palaeos.com/Vertebrates

The Pterosaurs from Deep Time by David M. Unwin, ©2006

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs by Dr. Peter Wellnhofer © 1991

Pterosaur Database www.pterosaur.co

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