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  1. Abstract Living amphibians (Lissamphibia) include frogs and salamanders (Batrachia) and the limbless worm-like caecilians (Gymnophiona). The estimated Palaeozoic era gymnophionan–batrachian molecular divergence 1 suggests a major gap in the record of crown lissamphibians prior to their earliest fossil occurrences in the Triassic period 2–6 . Recent studies find a monophyletic Batrachia within dissorophoid temnospondyls 7–10 , but the absence of pre-Jurassic period caecilian fossils 11,12 has made their relationships to batrachians and affinities to Palaeozoic tetrapods controversial 1,8,13,14 . Here we report the geologically oldest stem caecilian—a crown lissamphibian from the Late Triassic epoch of Arizona, USA—extending the caecilian record by around 35 million years. These fossils illuminate the tempo and mode of early caecilian morphological and functional evolution, demonstrating a delayed acquisition of musculoskeletal features associated with fossoriality in living caecilians, including the dual jaw closure mechanism 15,16 , reduced orbits 17 and the tentacular organ 18 . The provenance of these fossils suggests a Pangaean equatorial origin for caecilians, implying that living caecilian biogeography reflects conserved aspects of caecilian function and physiology 19 , in combination with vicariance patterns driven by plate tectonics 20 . These fossils reveal a combination of features that is unique to caecilians alongside features that are shared with batrachian and dissorophoid temnospondyls, providing new and compelling evidence supporting a single origin of living amphibians within dissorophoid temnospondyls. 
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  2. Abstract Non-archosaur archosauromorphs are a paraphyletic group of diapsid reptiles that were important members of global Middle and Late Triassic continental ecosystems. Included in this group are the azendohsaurids, a clade of allokotosaurians (kuehneosaurids and Azendohsauridae + Trilophosauridae) that retain the plesiomorphic archosauromorph postcranial body plan but evolved disparate cranial features that converge on later dinosaurian anatomy, including sauropodomorph-like marginal dentition and ceratopsian-like postorbital horns. Here we describe a new malerisaurine azendohsaurid from two monodominant bonebeds in the Blue Mesa Member, Chinle Formation (Late Triassic, ca. 218–220 Ma); the first occurs at Petrified Forest National Park and preserves a minimum of eight individuals of varying sizes, and the second occurs near St. Johns, Arizona. Puercosuchus traverorum n. gen. n. sp. is a carnivorous malerisaurine that is closely related to Malerisaurus robinsonae from the Maleri Formation of India and to Malerisaurus langstoni from the Dockum Group of western Texas. Dentigerous elements from Puercosuchus traverorum n. gen. n. sp. confirm that some Late Triassic tooth morphotypes thought to represent early dinosaurs cannot be differentiated from, and likely pertain to, Puercosuchus -like malerisaurine taxa. These bonebeds from northern Arizona support the hypothesis that non-archosauriform archosauromorphs were locally diverse near the middle Norian and experienced an extinction event prior to the end-Triassic mass extinction coincidental with the Adamanian-Revueltian boundary recognized at Petrified Forest National Park. The relatively late age of this early-diverging taxon (Norian) suggests that the diversity of azendohsaurids is underrepresented in Middle and Late Triassic fossil records around the world. UUID: http://zoobank.org/e6eeefd2-a0ae-47fc-8604-9f45af8c1147 . 
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  3. Abstract

    The anatomy of the braincase and associated soft tissues of the lagerpetidDromomeron gregorii(Archosauria: Avemetatarsalia) from the Late Triassic of the United States is here described. This corresponds to the first detailed description of cranial materials of Lagerpetidae, an enigmatic group of Late Triassic (c. 236–200 Million years ago) animals that are the closest known relatives of pterosaurs, the flying reptiles. The braincase ofD. gregoriiis characterized by the presence of an anteriorly elongated laterosphenoid and a postparietal, features observed in stem‐archosaurs but that were still unknown in early members of the avian lineage of archosaurs. Using micro‐computed tomography (CT‐scan data), we present digital reconstructions of the brain and endosseous labyrinth ofD. gregorii. The brain ofD. gregoriiexhibits a floccular lobe of the cerebellum that projects within the space of the semicircular canals. The semicircular canals are relatively large when compared to other archosauromorphs, with the anterior canal exhibiting a circular shape. These features of the sensory structures ofD. gregoriiare more similar to those of pterosaurs than to those of other early avemetatarsalians. In sum, the braincase anatomy ofD. gregoriishows a combination of plesiomorphic and apomorphic features in the phylogenetic context of Archosauria and suggests that the still poorly understood early evolution of the braincase in avemetatarsalians is complex, with a scenario of independent acquisitions and losses of character states.

     
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  4. Abstract The Placerias /Downs’ Quarry complex in eastern Arizona, USA, is the most diverse Upper Triassic vertebrate locality known. We report a new short-faced archosauriform, Syntomiprosopus sucherorum gen. et sp. nov., represented by four incomplete mandibles, that expands that diversity with a morphology unique among Late Triassic archosauriforms. The most distinctive feature of Syntomiprosopus gen. nov. is its anteroposteriorly short, robust mandible with 3–4 anterior, a larger caniniform, and 1–3 “postcanine” alveoli. The size and shape of the alveoli and the preserved tips of replacement teeth preclude assignment to any taxon known only from teeth. Additional autapomorphies of S. sucherorum gen. et sp. nov. include a large fossa associated with the mandibular fenestra, an interdigitating suture of the surangular with the dentary, fine texture ornamenting the medial surface of the splenial, and a surangular ridge that completes a 90° arc. The external surfaces of the mandibles bear shallow, densely packed, irregular, fine pits and narrow, arcuate grooves. This combination of character states allows an archosauriform assignment; however, an associated and similarly sized braincase indicates that Syntomiprosopus n. gen. may represent previously unsampled disparity in early-diverging crocodylomorphs. The Placerias Quarry is Adamanian (Norian, maximum depositional age ~219 Ma), and this specimen appears to be an early example of shortening of the skull, which occurs later in diverse archosaur lineages, including the Late Cretaceous crocodyliform Simosuchus . This is another case where Triassic archosauriforms occupied morphospace converged upon by other archosaurs later in the Mesozoic and further demonstrates that even well-sampled localities can yield new taxa. 
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  5. Abstract

    The femora of diapsids have undergone morphological changes related to shifts in postural and locomotor modes, such as the transition from plesiomorphic amniote and diapsid taxa to the apomorphic conditions related to a more erect posture within Archosauriformes. One remarkable clade of Triassic diapsids is the chameleon‐like Drepanosauromorpha. This group is known from numerous articulated but heavily compressed skeletons that have the potential to further inform early reptile femoral evolution. For the first time, we describe the three‐dimensional osteology of the femora of Drepanosauromorpha, based on undistorted fossils from the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation and Dockum Group of North America. We identify apomorphies and a combination of character states that link these femora to those in crushed specimens of drepanosauromorphs and compare our sample with a range of amniote taxa. Several characteristics of drepanosauromorph femora, including a hemispherical proximal articular surface, prominent asymmetry in the proximodistal length of the tibial condyles, and a deep intercondylar sulcus, are plesiomorphies shared with early diapsids. The femora contrast with those of most diapsids in lacking a crest‐like, distally tapering internal trochanter. They bear a ventrolaterally positioned tuberosity on the femoral shaft, resembling the fourth trochanter in Archosauriformes. The reduction of an internal trochanter parallels independent reductions in therapsids and archosauriforms. The presence of a ventrolaterally positioned trochanter is also similar to that of chameleonid squamates. Collectively, these features demonstrate a unique femoral morphology for drepanosauromorphs, and suggest an increased capacity for femoral adduction and protraction relative to most other Permo‐Triassic diapsids.

     
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  6. Abstract

    The evolutionary history of archosaurs and their closest relatives is characterized by a wide diversity of locomotor modes, which has even been suggested as a pivotal aspect underlying the evolutionary success of dinosaurs vs. pseudosuchians across the Triassic–Jurassic transition. This locomotor diversity (e.g., more sprawling/erect; crouched/upright; quadrupedal/bipedal) led to several morphofunctional specializations of archosauriform limb bones that have been studied qualitatively as well as quantitatively through various linear morphometric studies. However, differences in locomotor habits have never been studied across the Triassic–Jurassic transition using 3D geometric morphometrics, which can relate how morphological features vary according to biological factors such as locomotor habit and body mass. Herein, we investigate morphological variation across a dataset of 72 femora from 36 different species of archosauriforms. First, we identify femoral head rotation, distal slope of the fourth trochanter, femoral curvature, and the angle between the lateral condyle and crista tibiofibularis as the main features varying between bipedal and quadrupedal taxa, all of these traits having a stronger locomotor signal than the lesser trochanter's proximal extent. We show a significant association between locomotor mode and phylogeny, but with the locomotor signal being stronger than the phylogenetic signal. This enables us to predict locomotor modes of some of the more ambiguous early archosauriforms without relying on the relationships between hindlimb and forelimb linear bone dimensions as in prior studies. Second, we highlight that the most important morphological variation is linked to the increase of body size, which impacts the width of the epiphyses and the roundness and proximodistal position of the fourth trochanter. Furthermore, we show that bipedal and quadrupedal archosauriforms have different allometric trajectories along the morphological variation in relation to body size. Finally, we demonstrate a covariation between locomotor mode and body size, with variations in femoral bowing (anteroposterior curvature) being more distinct among robust femora than gracile ones. We also identify a decoupling in fourth trochanter variation between locomotor mode (symmetrical to semi‐pendant) and body size (sharp to rounded). Our results indicate a similar level of morphological disparity linked to a clear convergence in femoral robusticity between the two clades of archosauriforms (Pseudosuchia and Avemetatarsalia), emphasizing the importance of accounting for body size when studying their evolutionary history, as well as when studying the functional morphology of appendicular features. Determining how early archosauriform skeletal features were impacted by locomotor habits and body size also enables us to discuss the potential homoplasy of some phylogenetic characters used previously in cladistic analyses as well as when bipedalism evolved in the avemetatarsalian lineage. This study illuminates how the evolution of femoral morphology in early archosauriforms was functionally constrained by locomotor habit and body size, which should aid ongoing discussions about the early evolution of dinosaurs and the nature of their evolutionary “success” over pseudosuchians.

     
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