Body size evolution during the Triassic archosauriform radiation
Alan H. Turner, Sterling J. Nesbitt, 2013. "Body size evolution during the Triassic archosauriform radiation", Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin, S. J. Nesbitt, J. B. Desojo, R. B. Irmis
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The first large (>1 m) diapsids appeared near the Permian–Triassic extinction and a subset of diapsids, the archosauriforms, expanded their body size range soon after in the Early–Middle Triassic. Here, we examine body size at key evolutionary events within Archosauriformes during the Triassic and through the end-Triassic extinction. Using femoral length as a body size proxy and a temporally calibrated phylogeny of Archosauriformes, we estimate ancestral body sizes using a maximum likelihood approach and test for the presence of an adapative radiation by comparing the fit of competing evolutionary models. Archosauriform body size is characterized by punctuated change with more change occurring early in the Triassic. Archosaurs crossing the Triassic–Jurassic boundary show a wide range in ancestral size, and dinosaurs (sauropodomorphs and theropods) are considerably larger in the Jurassic. Crocodylomorph origins are characterized by a drop in body size; however, both the relative amount of change and the rate of change are matched among other archosaur clades. Archosauriforms increase in absolute body size through the Triassic and evidence suggests that a directional trend in size increase occurred in the early Mesozoic. The morphological signature of adaptive radiation is rare in comparative data from extant animals but is present at the origination of Archosauriformes.
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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.