Aetosauria: a clade of armoured pseudosuchians from the Upper Triassic continental beds
Julia B. Desojo, Andrew B. Heckert, Jeffrey W. Martz, William G. Parker, Rainer R. Schoch, Bryan J. Small, Tomasz Sulej, 2013. "Aetosauria: a clade of armoured pseudosuchians from the Upper Triassic continental beds", Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin, S. J. Nesbitt, J. B. Desojo, R. B. Irmis
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Aetosauria is a clade of obligately quadrupedal, heavily armoured pseudosuchians known from Upper Triassic (late Carnian–Rhaetian) strata on every modern continent except Australia and Antarctica. As many as 22 genera and 26 species ranging from 1 to 6 m in length, and with a body mass ranging from less than 10 to more than 500 kg, are known. Aetosauroides scagliai was recently recovered as the most basal aetosaur, placed outside of Stagonolepididae (the last common ancestor of Desmatosuchus and Aetosaurus). Interrelationships among the basal aetosaurs are not well understood but two clades with relatively apomorphic armour – the spinose Desmatosuchinae and the generally wide-bodied Typothoracisinae – are consistently recognized. Paramedian and lateral osteoderms are often distinctive at the generic level but variation within the carapace is not well understood in many taxa, warranting caution in assigning isolated osteoderms to specific taxa. The aetosaur skull and dentition varies across taxa, and there is increasing evidence that at least some aetosaurs relied on invertebrates and/or small vertebrates as a food source. Histological evidence indicates that, after an initial period of rapid growth, lines of arrested growth (LAGs) are common and later growth was relatively slow. The common and widespread Late Triassic ichnogenus Brachychirotherium probably represents the track of an aetosaur.
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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.