A new dinosaur with theropod affinities from the Late Triassic Santa Maria Formation, south Brazil

The Late Triassic (Carnian) upper Santa Maria Formation of south Brazil has yielded some of the oldest unequivocal records of dinosaurs. Here, we describe a new saurischian dinosaur from this formation, Nhandumirim waldsangae, gen. et sp. nov., based on a semiarticulated skeleton, including trunk, sacral, and caudal vertebrae, one chevron, right ilium, femur, partial tibia, fibula, and metatarsals II and IV, as well as ungual and non-ungual phalanges. The new taxon differs from all other Carnian dinosauromorphs through a unique combination of characters, some of which are autapomorphic: caudal centra with sharp longitudinal ventral keels; brevis fossa extending for less than three-quarters of the ventral surface of the postacetabular ala of the ilium; dorsolateral trochanter ending well distal to the level of the femoral head; distal part of the tibia with a mediolaterally extending tuberosity on its cranial surface and a tabular caudolateral flange; conspicuous, craniomedially oriented semicircular articular facet on the distal fibula; and a straight metatarsal IV. This clearly distinguishes Nhandumirim waldsangae from both Saturnalia tupiniquim and Staurikosaurus pricei, which were collected nearby and at a similar stratigraphic level. Despite not being fully grown, the differences between Nhandumirim waldsangae and those saurischians cannot be attributed to ontogeny. The phylogenetic position of Nhandumirim waldsangae suggests that it represents one of the earliest members of Theropoda. Nhandumirim waldsangae shows that some typical theropod characters were already present early in dinosaur evolution, and it represents possibly the oldest record of the group known in Brazil.