Ornithosuchidae: a group of Triassic archosaurs with a unique ankle joint
M. Belén von Baczko, Martín D. Ezcurra, 2013. "Ornithosuchidae: a group of Triassic archosaurs with a unique ankle joint", Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin, S. J. Nesbitt, J. B. Desojo, R. B. Irmis
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The ornithosuchids were a group of archosaurs with body lengths ranging from 2 to 4 m recorded from Upper Triassic beds in Argentina and Scotland. The group was defined as a node-based clade including Ornithosuchus longidens, Riojasuchus tenuisceps, Venaticosuchus rusconii and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor. The ornithosuchids are diagnosed by the following apomorphies observed in the three known species of the clade: downturned premaxilla; premaxilla–maxilla contact with a diastema in the alveolar margin equal in length to two teeth; palatine–pterygoid fenestra; and orbit with a distinct ventral point surrounded by ‘V’-shaped dorsal processes of the jugal. The most remarkable postcranial apomorphy of the group is the presence of the so-called crocodile reversed ankle joint, a condition that seems to be unique for the ornithosuchids among amniotans. The systematic history of Ornithosuchidae is complex and Ornithosuchus was allied with dinosaurs or phytosaurs prior to the implementation of numerical phylogenetic analyses. Currently, there is consensus that Ornithosuchidae is positioned within Pseudosuchia, but their phylogenetic position within the group remains strongly debated. Nevertheless, all hypotheses agree in inferring an extremely long ghost lineage at the base of the clade. The presence of derived pseudosuchians in the late Olenekian produces a ghost lineage of c. 16–18 millions of years for Ornithosuchidae, indicating that only the late evolutionary history of the clade is currently sampled in the fossil record.
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Archosaurs, an important reptile group that includes today’s crocodiles and birds, arose during the Triassic in the aftermath of the greatest mass extinction of all time. In the last 20 years, our understanding of the early evolution of the group has improved substantially with the discovery of new fossils and species of early archosaurs and their closest relatives, a better understanding of the relationships of these animals, and new insights into their palaeobiology. In order to synthesize these new data, researchers of early archosaurs from around the world met at the first symposium of early archosaur evolution at the IV Congreso Latinoamericano de Paleontología de Vertebrados (September 2011) in San Juan, Argentina. This symposium facilitated collaboration and strove to paint a better understanding of these extraordinary animals. The resultant body of work is a state-of-the-art examination of early archosaur groups and their close relatives including historical, anatomical, biogeographical, evolutionary and palaeobiological data. This contribution furthers our knowledge of the anatomy, relationships, and palaeobiology of species-level taxa as well as more global patterns of archosaur evolution during the Triassic.