Monday, June 10, 2013

A New Reconstruction of the Skull of Archaeopteryx

New observations on the skull of Archaeopteryx


1. Oliver W. M. Rauhut (a)


a. Bayerische Staatssammlung fu¨r Pala¨ontologie und Geologie and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, LMU Munich, Richard-Wagner-Str. 10, 80333 Munich, Germany


Although skeletal remains of the iconic oldest known avialian Archaeopteryx have been known for almost 150 years, several aspects of the cranial anatomy of this taxon have remained enigmatic, mainly because of the strongly flattened and often fractured and incomplete nature of available skull materials. New investigation of the skulls of the recently described, excellently preserved tenth (Thermopolis) and the seventh (Munich) specimens revealed several previously unrecognized characters and helps to resolve some problematic issues. Thus, the nasal of Archaeopteryx shows a lateral notch for the lacrimal, as is found in many other saurischian dinosaurs, the maxilla clearly participates in the margin of the external nares, and there seems to be a pneumatic foramen in the lacrimal, comparable to the lacrimal fenestra found in many non-avian theropods. In the braincase, Archaeopteryx shows pneumatic features reminiscent of non-avian theropods, including a ventral basisphenoid recess and an anterior tympanic recess that is laterally incised into the basisphenoid/prootic. Most importantly, however, the postorbital process of the jugal shows a facet for the suture with the postorbital, thus resolving the question of whether Archaeopteryx had a closed postorbital bar. A new reconstruction of the skull of Archaeopteryx is presented, making the skull of this taxon even more theropod-like than previously recognized. Furthermore, the closed postorbital bar and the configuration of the bones of the skull roof cast serious doubt on claims that an avian-style cranial kinesis was present in this taxon.

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