Randall B. Irmis, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Hans-Dieter Sues, 2013. "Early Crocodylomorpha", Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin, S. J. Nesbitt, J. B. Desojo, R. B. Irmis
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Non-crocodyliform crocodylomorphs, often called ‘sphenosuchians’, were the earliest-diverging lineages of Crocodylomorpha, and document the stepwise acquisition of many of the features that characterize extant crocodylians. The first crocodylomorph fossils are approximately 230 million years old (upper Carnian, Late Triassic), and at least one of these early lineages persisted until at least 150 million years ago (Late Jurassic). These taxa occupied a wide variety of terrestrial environments from equatorial regions to high-paleolatitudes during the early Mesozoic. Despite a quarter-century of quantitative phylogenetic work, the interrelationships of early crocodylomorphs remain in a state of flux, though recent studies suggest that these lineages are paraphyletic with respect to Crocodyliformes, rather than forming a monophyletic early offshoot of Crocodylomorpha as some previously hypothesized. Nearly all early crocodylomorphs were upright quadrupedal small-bodied taxa, but lumping them all together as small cursorial faunivores masks ecological and morphological disparity in diet and limb functional morphology. With the accelerated pace of recent discovery of new specimens and taxa, future consensus on early crocodylomorph phylogeny will provide a solid framework for understanding their change in diversity and disparity through time, potential biogeographic patterns, and the morphological transformation leading to Crocodyliformes.
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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.