Early dinosaurs showed rapid evolutionary rates, which were sustained on the line leading to birds. Maintenance of evolvability in key lineages might explain the uneven distribution of trait diversity among groups of animal species.
BackgroundBody size is intimately related to the physiology and ecology of an organism. Therefore, accurate and consistent body mass estimates are essential for inferring numerous aspects of paleobiology in extinct taxa, and investigating large-scale evolutionary and ecological patterns in the history of life. Scaling relationships between skeletal measurements and body mass in birds and mammals are commonly used to predict body mass in extinct members of these crown clades, but the applicability of these models for predicting mass in more distantly related stem taxa, such as non-avian dinosaurs and non-mammalian synapsids, has been criticized on biomechanical grounds. Here we test the major criticisms of scaling methods for estimating body mass using an extensive dataset of mammalian and non-avian reptilian species derived from individual skeletons with live weights.ResultsSignificant differences in the limb scaling of mammals and reptiles are noted in comparisons of limb proportions and limb length to body mass. Remarkably, however, the relationship between proximal (stylopodial) limb bone circumference and body mass is highly conserved in extant terrestrial mammals and reptiles, in spite of their disparate limb postures, gaits, and phylogenetic histories. As a result, we are able to conclusively reject the main criticisms of scaling methods that question the applicability of a universal scaling equation for estimating body mass in distantly related taxa.ConclusionsThe conserved nature of the relationship between stylopodial circumference and body mass suggests that the minimum diaphyseal circumference of the major weight-bearing bones is only weakly influenced by the varied forces exerted on the limbs (that is, compression or torsion) and most strongly related to the mass of the animal. Our results, therefore, provide a much-needed, robust, phylogenetically corrected framework for accurate and consistent estimation of body mass in extinct terrestrial quadrupeds, which is important for a wide range of paleobiological studies (including growth rates, metabolism, and energetics) and meta-analyses of body size evolution.
The cranial anatomy of the helmet-crested lambeosaurine Hypacrosaurus altispinus (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae) is described, with a focus on ontogenetic and individual variation in phylogenetically significant characters of the cranial crest, braincase, and facial skeleton. Cranial material of H. altispinus represents a relatively complete growth series that includes crestless juveniles of less than half the size of large individuals with fully developed crests. Cranial ontogeny is compared with other lambeosaurines using bivariate morphometrics and through qualitative comparison of a size-standardized cranial growth series. Bivariate analyses reveal that the relative growth of the skull and cranial crest of H. altispinus and H. stebingeri are similar, and that Hypacrosaurus more closely resembles Corythosaurus than Lambeosaurus. Hypacrosaurus altispinus is systematically revised. The taxon is characterized by five autapomorphies, most of which are concentrated in the skull, as well as an enlarged terminal ischial foot. Maximum parsimony and Bayesian likelihood (Mk+gamma) phylogenetic analyses were conducted to test the monophyly of the genus. Hypacrosaurus monophyly is corroborated in light of new anatomical data. Although H. stebingeri and H. altispinus share few derived characters of the skull, the hypothesis that H. stebingeri is a metaspecies that represents the ancestor of H. altispinus cannot be rejected.
Brain and nasal cavity endocasts of four corythosaurian lambeosaurines (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) were investigated to test hypotheses of cranial crest function related to sensorineural systems. Endocasts were generated through computed tomography and three-dimensional rendering and visualization software. The sample comprises a range of ontogenetic stages from the taxa Lambeosaurus, Corythosaurus, and Hypacrosaurus. Results show that the morphology of brain endocasts differs little from that of hadrosaurines. The strikingly convoluted nasal vestibule of Hypacrosaurus altispinus, when interpreted in the context of lambeosaurine phylogeny, suggests selective pressure for nasal cavity function independent from changes in the external shape of the crest and associated visual display function. The plesiomorphically small olfactory bulbs and apparently small olfactory region of the nasal cavity argues against the hypothesis that increased olfactory acuity played a causal role in crest evolution. The elongate cochlea of the inner ear reveals that hearing in lambeosaurines emphasized low frequencies consistent with the hypothesized low-frequency calls made by the crests under the resonation model of crest function. The brain is relatively large in lambeosaurines compared with many other large dinosaurs, and the cerebrum is relatively larger than that of all non-hadrosaurian ornithischians and large theropods, but compares favorably with hadrosaurine hadrosaurids as well as some maniraptoran theropods. It is concluded that the large brains of lambeosaurines are consistent with the range of social behaviors inferred when the crest is interpreted as an intraspecific signaling structure. Anat Rec, 292:1315Rec, 292: -1337Rec, 292: , 2009. V V C 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Non-avian dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago, geologically coincident with the impact of a large bolide (comet or asteroid) during an interval of massive volcanic eruptions and changes in temperature and sea level. There has long been fervent debate about how these events affected dinosaurs. We review a wealth of new data accumulated over the past two decades, provide updated and novel analyses of long-term dinosaur diversity trends during the latest Cretaceous, and discuss an emerging consensus on the extinction's tempo and causes. Little support exists for a global, long-term decline across non-avian dinosaur diversity prior to their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. However, restructuring of latest Cretaceous dinosaur faunas in North America led to reduced diversity of large-bodied herbivores, perhaps making communities more susceptible to cascading extinctions. The abruptness of the dinosaur extinction suggests a key role for the bolide impact, although the coarseness of the fossil record makes testing the effects of Deccan volcanism difficult.
Summary1. Body mass is strongly related to both physiological and ecological properties of living organisms. As a result, generating robust, broadly applicable models for estimating body mass in the fossil record provides the opportunity to reconstruct palaeobiology and investigate evolutionary ecology on a large temporal scale. 2. A recent study provided strong evidence that the minimum circumference of stylopodial elements (humerus and femur) is conservatively associated with body mass in living quadrupeds. Unfortunately, this model is not directly applicable to extinct bipeds, such as non-avian dinosaurs. 3. This study presents a new equation that mathematically corrects the quadruped equation for use in bipeds. It is derived from the systemic difference in the circumference-to-area scaling relationship of two circles (hypothetical quadruped) and one circle (hypothetical biped), which represent the cross-section of the main weight-bearing limb bones. 4. When applied to a newly constructed data set of femoral circumferences and body masses in living birds, the new equation reveals errors that are significantly lower than other published equations, but significantly higher than the error inherent in the avian data set. Such errors, however, are expected given the unique overall femoral circumference-body mass scaling relationship found in birds. 5. Body mass estimates for a sample of bipedal dinosaurs using the new model are consistent with recent estimates based on volumetric life reconstructions, but, in contrast, this equation is simpler to use, with the concomitant potential to provide a wider set of body mass estimates for extinct bipeds. 6. Although it is evident that no one estimation model is flawless, the combined use of the corrected quadrupedal equations and the previously published quadrupedal equation offer a consistent approach with which to estimate body masses in both quadrupeds and bipeds. These models have implications for conducting large-scale macroevolutionary analyses of body size throughout the evolutionary history of terrestrial vertebrates, and, in particular, across major changes in body plan, such as the evolution of bipedality in archosaurs and quadrupedality in dinosaurs.
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