Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New theropod Vitakrisaurus and Vitakridrinda's publication date settled

I've been trying to track down the publication officially describing Vitakridrinda, and have finally succeeded.

Malkani first mentioned this taxon in his 2003 description of Brohisaurus, referencing it as an abelisaurid described in "Malkani, 2004a". The only publication in the bibliography solely by Malkani is his saurischian biodiversity paper, listed as in process, but not actually published until 2006. As the 2003 mention of Vitakridrinda lacks a description or definition (ICZN Article 13.1.1; note the reference to Malkani, 2004a doesn't count under 13.1.2 since it was not published yet), was not indicated to be a new taxon (16.1), and did not have a type specimen indicated (16.4), it was a nomen nudum at the time. The first description of Vitakridrinda is generally claimed to be the 2004 "Saurischian Dinosaurs from Late Cretaceous of Pakistan", as referenced in Malkani 2006a and the Paleobiology Database. Yet ICZN Article 9.9 lists "abstracts of articles, papers, posters, texts of lectures, and similar material when issued primarily to participants at meetings, symposia, colloquia or congresses" as not being published work, so the paper doesn't count. In addition, it still violates 16.4 in not indicating a type specimen. Note while Malkani's "Saurischian dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Pab Formation of Pakistan" has been listed as being published in 2005 (Malkani, 2006a) or "2004d" and in review (Malkani, 2006b), Malkani confirms (pers. comm. 2012) that it remains unpublished. Two 2006 publications of Malkani's do describe Vitakridrinda sufficiently, with 2006b being published in December, while 2006a was published in April. Thus Malkani's 2006a publication is the actual official description of Vitakridrinda.

Perhaps more interesting is that while researching this, I found a theropod taxon which has gone unnoticed by the scientific community- Vitakrisaurus saraiki.  As usual for Malkani, he also erects Vitakrisaurinae, Vitakrisauridae and Vitakrisauria, because Pakistani dinosaurs can't possibly use the same classification as other dinosaurs do :| .  Note he had previously used Vitakrisauridae and Vitakrisaurinae in 2010 (New Pakisaurus (Pakisauridae, Titanosauria, Sauropoda) remains, and Cretaceous Tertiary (K-T) boundary from Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal (Science Series). 42(1), 39-64) for Vitakridrinda and Rajasaurus, and Vitakririnda respectively.  Yet these were invalid then because Vitakrisaurus had yet to be named.  Incidentally he also tried naming Rajasaurinae within Vitakrisauridae in that publication, but that is also a nomen nudum as it was not given a diagnosis (ICZN Article 13.1.1) or explicitly stated to be new (ICZN 16.1).  It's really not clear if he thinks of Vitakrisauridae and Vitakrisauria as being the right names for Abelisauridae and Abelisauria (which would be absurd, but that seems to be his view of his titanosaur families Pakisauridae and Balochisauridae relative to Titanosauridae and Saltasauridae), or if he thinks they exist alongside them.

Incidentally, Malkani parallels the situation with his new baurusuchid Sulaimanisuchus kinwai.  Initially identified as a Pabwehshi specimen (and maybe what Malkani discusses in his 2004 abstract "First diagnostic fossils of Late Cretaceous crocodyliform (Mesueucrocoreptilia) from Pakistan"), he used the family Sulaimanisuchidae invalidly in the same 2010 paper as above before properly naming the genus, subfamily and family in 2010b.  Supposedly Pabwehshi and Sulaimanisuchus both belong to Sulaimanisuchinae, and Sulaimanisuchidae sounds like another attempt to improperly replace Baurusuchidae.  In any case, it's based on the anterior dentaries MSM-63-4, from the Maastrichtian Vitakri Formation.  I'm not qualified to reflect on its validity.

Vitakrisaurus saraiki holotype MSM-303-2 after Malkani 2010b.  My interpretation is that the elements on the top of the left photo are (left to right) pedal ungual II, phalanx II-2, phalanx II-1 and metatarsal II in medial view.  The latter three are also shown in dorsal view on the bottom edge of the specimen in the right photo.  A rather unrecognizable digit III seems to be above digit II in the right photo.  Above that, and below the end of digit II at left, are single phalanges which may belong to digit IV.

Vitakrisaurus Malkani, 2010b
V. saraiki Malkani, 2010b
Maastrichtian, Late Cretaceous
Vitakri Formation, Pakistan

Holotype- (MSM-303-2) distal metatarsal II, phalanx II-1 (~24 mm), phalanx II-2 (~25 mm), pedal ungual II, distal metatarsal III?, pedal digit III, two phalanges IV-? (~21 mm)
Diagnosis- provisionally indeterminate within Noasauridae.
Comments- Malkani proposed the name Vitakrisaurus saraiki in 2010b for a pes he had previously referred to juvenile Vitakridrinda in 2009. As interpreted by Malkani, it would have some unique features (three phalanges on digit I; four phalanges on digit II), but Malkani only explicitly diagnoses it relative to the sauropod Pakisaurus. Thus it is uncertain how Vitakrisaurus is supposed to differ from other theropods, and note it cannot be compared to any of the material referred to Vitakridrinda in any case. The photo differs markedly from the illustration, with the dorsal illustration mislabaling phalanx II-2 a claw and placing a phalanx as it appears in the medial view. The supposed metatarsal I (mislabeled 'metacarpal') is too robust and elongate, but could be a metatarsal II which would match the phalangeal count. The area above that digit (seemingly representing digits II and III) is too blurry to comment on, though the drawing would be perfectly congruent with them being complete digits III and IV. The illustrated isolated 'phalange' below the ungual in medial view may be from digit IV, since most of that digit isn't actually visible in the dorsal view. The illustration also includes a supposed scale, but whether this is supposed to derive from Vitakrisaurus or something else like a fish is never stated. Based on its size, Vitakrisaurus is more comparable to noasaurids than abelisaurids. The large ratio between phalanges II-2 and II-1 and proximally narrow metatarsal II (in dorsal view) also suggest noasaurid affinities. While II-2 is longer than Velocisaurus (compared to II-1), this varies within other species, and further comparison is not possible pending better description of this and other noasaurid pes. 

References- Malkani, 2003. First Jurassic dinosaur fossils found from Kirthar range, Khuzdar District, Balochistan, Pakistan. Geological Bulletin University of Peshawar. 36, 73-83.
Malkani, 2004. Saurischian dinosaurs from Late Cretaceous of Pakistan. in Hussain and Akbar (eds.). Abstract volume of Fifth Pakistan Geological Congress, Islamabad, Pakistan. 71-73.
Malkani, 2006a. Biodiversity of saurischian dinosaurs from the Latest Cretaceous park of Pakistan. Journal of Applied and Emerging Sciences. 1(3), 108-140.
Malkani, 2006b. First rostrum of carnivorous Vitakridrinda (abelisaurid theropod dinosaur) found from the latest Cretaceous Dinosaur Beds (Vitakri) Member of Pab Formation, Alam Kali Kakor locality of Vitakri area, Barkhan District, Balochistan, Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal (Science Series). 38(2), 5-24.
Malkani, 2009. New Balochisaurus (Balochisauridae, Titanosauria, Sauropoda) and Vitakridrinda (Theropoda) remains from Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal (Science Series). 41(2), 65-92.
Malkani, 2010a. Vitakridrinda (Vitakrisauridae, Theropoda) from the Latest Cretaceous of Pakistan. Journal of Earth Science. 21(Special Issue 3), 204-212.
Malkani, 2010b. Stratigraphy and mineral potential of Sulaiman (Middle Indus) basin, Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal (Science Series). 42(2), 39-66.
Malkani, 2011. Vitakridrinda and Vitakrisaurus of Vitakrisauridae Theropoda from Pakistan. Proceedings of the 6th Symposium of IGCP 507 on Paleoclimates of the Cretaceous in Asia and their global correlation. Beijing, China. 59-66.
Malkani, unpublished. Saurischian dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Pab Formation of Pakistan. Geological Survey of Pakistan, Information Release. 823, 1-117.