Metabolic heat production in archosaurs has played an important role in their evolutionary radiation during the Mesozoic, and their ancestral metabolic condition has long been a matter of debate in systematics and palaeontology. The study of fossil bone histology provides crucial information on bone growth rate, which has been used to indirectly investigate the evolution of thermometabolism in archosaurs. However, no quantitative estimation of metabolic rate has ever been performed on fossils using bone histological features. Moreover, to date, no inference model has included phylogenetic information in the form of predictive variables. Here we performed statistical predictive modeling using the new method of phylogenetic eigenvector maps on a set of bone histological features for a sample of extant and extinct vertebrates, to estimate metabolic rates of fossil archosauromorphs. This modeling procedure serves as a case study for eigenvector-based predictive modeling in a phylogenetic context, as well as an investigation of the poorly known evolutionary patterns of metabolic rate in archosaurs. Our results show that Mesozoic theropod dinosaurs exhibit metabolic rates very close to those found in modern birds, that archosaurs share a higher ancestral metabolic rate than that of extant ectotherms, and that this derived high metabolic rate was acquired at a much more inclusive level of the phylogenetic tree, among non-archosaurian archosauromorphs. These results also highlight the difficulties of assigning a given heat production strategy (i.e., endothermy, ectothermy) to an estimated metabolic rate value, and confirm findings of previous studies that the definition of the endotherm/ectotherm dichotomy may be ambiguous.
Cynodont therapsids diversified extensively after the Permo-Triassic mass extinction event, and gave rise to mammals in the Jurassic. We use an enlarged and revised dataset of discrete skeletal characters to build a new phylogeny for all main cynodont clades from the Late Permian to the Early Jurassic, and we analyse models of morphological diversification in the group. Basal taxa and epicynodonts are paraphyletic relative to eucynodonts, and the latter are divided into cynognathians and probainognathians, with tritylodonts and mammals forming sister groups. Disparity analyses reveal a heterogeneous distribution of cynodonts in a morphospace derived from cladistic characters. Pairwise morphological distances are weakly correlated with phylogenetic distances. Comparisons of disparity by groups and through time are non-significant, especially after the data are rarefied. A disparity peak occurs in the Early/Middle Triassic, after which period the mean disparity fluctuates little. Cynognathians were characterized by high evolutionary rates and high diversity early in their history, whereas probainognathian rates were low. Community structure may have been instrumental in imposing different rates on the two clades.
A new species of the erythrosuchid archosauriform reptile Garjainia Ochev, 1958 is described on the basis of disarticulated but abundant and well-preserved cranial and postcranial material from the late Early Triassic (late Olenekian) Subzone A of the Cynognathus Assemblage Zone of the Burgersdorp Formation (Beaufort Group) of the Karoo Basin of South Africa. The new species, G. madiba, differs from its unique congener, G. prima from the late Olenekian of European Russia, most notably in having large bony bosses on the lateral surfaces of the jugals and postorbitals. The new species also has more teeth and a proportionately longer postacetabular process of the ilium than G. prima. Analysis of G. madiba bone histology reveals thick compact cortices comprised of highly vascularized, rapidly forming fibro-lamellar bone tissue, similar to Erythrosuchus africanus from Subzone B of the Cynognathus Assemblage Zone. The most notable differences between the two taxa are the predominance of a radiating vascular network and presence of annuli in the limb bones of G. madiba. These features indicate rapid growth rates, consistent with data for many other Triassic archosauriforms, but also a high degree of developmental plasticity as growth remained flexible. The diagnoses of Garjainia and of Erythrosuchidae are addressed and revised. Garjainia madiba is the geologically oldest erythrosuchid known from the Southern Hemisphere, and demonstrates that erythrosuchids achieved a cosmopolitan biogeographical distribution by the end of the Early Triassic, within five million years of the end-Permian mass extinction event. It provides new insights into the diversity of the Subzone A vertebrate assemblage, which partially fills a major gap between classic ‘faunal’ assemblages from the older Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone (earliest Triassic) and the younger Subzone B of the Cynognathus Assemblage Zone (early Middle Triassic).
Highlights d A new species of Early Jurassic South African sauropodomorph weighed 12 metric tons d Proportional limb robusticity is useful for inferring posture in extinct tetrapods d Many early-branching sauropodomorphs were quadrupeds with flexed limbs d Quadrupedality evolves at low body mass but facilitates larger body masses
Dicynodonts were the most diverse and abundant herbivorous therapsids of the Permo-Triassic. They include Lystrosaurus, one of the few taxa known to survive the end-Permian extinction and the most abundant tetrapod during the Early Triassic postextinction recovery. Explanations for the success of Lystrosaurus and other dicynodonts remain controversial. This study presents an assessment of dicynodont growth patterns using bone histology, with special focus on taxa associated with the end-Permian extinction event. Bone histological analysis reveals a high cortical thickness throughout the clade, perhaps reflecting a phylogenetic constraint. Growth rings are absent early in ontogeny, and combined with high vascular density, indicate rapid, sustained growth up to the subadult stage. Extraordinarily enlarged vascular channels are present in the midcortex of many dicynodonts, including adults, and may have facilitated a more efficient assimilation of nutrients and rapid bone growth compared to other therapsids. Both increased channel density and enlarged vascular channels evolved at or near the base of major radiations of dicynodonts, implying that the changes in growth and life history they represent may have been key to the success of dicynodonts. Furthermore, this exceptionally rapid growth to adulthood may have contributed to the survival of Lystrosaurus during the end-Permian extinction and its dominance during the postextinction recovery period.
The turtle body plan differs markedly from that of other vertebrates and serves as a model system for studying structural and developmental evolution. Incorporation of the ribs into the turtle shell negates the costal movements that effect lung ventilation in other air-breathing amniotes. Instead, turtles have a unique abdominal-muscle-based ventilatory apparatus whose evolutionary origins have remained mysterious. Here we show through broadly comparative anatomical and histological analyses that an early member of the turtle stem lineage has several turtle-specific ventilation characters: rigid ribcage, inferred loss of intercostal muscles and osteological correlates of the primary expiratory muscle. Our results suggest that the ventilation mechanism of turtles evolved through a division of labour between the ribs and muscles of the trunk in which the abdominal muscles took on the primary ventilatory function, whereas the broadened ribs became the primary means of stabilizing the trunk. These changes occurred approximately 50 million years before the evolution of the fully ossified shell.
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