Tetanurae meaning "stiff tails", was named by Jaques Gauthier on cladistic grounds in 1986 for a large group of theropod dinosaurs. Gauthier's paper was the first serious application of the science of cladistics to vertebrate paleontology.
Tetanurae are defined as all theropods more closely related to modern birds than to Ceratosaurus (e.g. Padian et al., 1999). Gauthier considered it to consist of Carnosauria and Coelurosauria, although many of what he considered carnosaurs have been regarded as coelurosaurs or basal tetanurans by subsequent workers (but see Rauhut, 2003). Paul Sereno (1999) named Neotetanurae for the node joining Carnosauria (his Allosauroidea) and Coelurosauria, excluding other tetanurans such as spinosauroids. Padian et al. (1999) gave a synonymous definition for Gregory Paul's (1988) Avetheropoda, but this definition was published slightly later.
Large, predatory spinosaurids and allosaurids flourished during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, especially in Gondwana, but seem to have died out before the end of the Cretaceous, possibly due to competition from abelisaurid ceratosaurs and tyrannosaurid coelurosaurs. The diverse coelurosaurs persisted until the end of the Mesozoic Era, when all except for crown clade avians died out. Modern birds are the only living representatives of the clade Tetanurae.
Many popular dinosaurs are tetanurans, including Archaeopteryx, Allosaurus, Oviraptor, Spinosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, and all species of modern bird. The first Mesozoic dinosaur to be named was Megalosaurus bucklandii, a basal tetanuran.
- Gauthier, J. A. 1986. Saurischian monophyly and the origin of birds. pp. 1-55 In Padian, K. (ed.) The Origin of Birds and the Evolution of Flight. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences 8.
- Padian, K., Hutchinson, R. M., and Holtz, Jr., T. R. 1999. Phylogenetic definitions and nomenclature of the major taxonomic categories of the carnivorous Dinosauria (Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19(1):69-80.
- Paul, G. S. 1988. Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. Simon and Schuster, New York.
- Rauhut, O. W. M. 2003. The interrelationships and evolution of basal theropod dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology 69:1-213.
- Sereno, P. C. 1999. The evolution of dinosaurs. Science 284:2137-2147.