Friday, September 23, 2016

How the Skulls of Early Triassic Basal Cynodont Galesaurus Grew


Jasinoski et al


Ontogenetic changes in the skull and mandible of thirty-one specimens of Galesaurus planiceps, a basal non-mammaliaform cynodont from the Early Triassic of South Africa, are documented. The qualitative survey indicated eight changes in the craniomandibular apparatus occurred during growth, dividing the sample into three ontogenetic stages: juvenile, subadult, and adult. Changes in the temporal region, zygomatic arch, occiput, and mandible occurred during the transition from the subadult to adult stage at a basal skull length of 90 mm. At least four morphological and allometric differences divided the adult specimens into two morphs, indicating the presence of sexual dimorphism in Galesaurus. Differences include extensive lateral flaring of the zygomatic arches in the ‘male' morph resulting in a more anterior orientation of the orbits, and a narrower snout in the ‘female'. This is the first record of sexual dimorphism in a basal cynodont, and the first time it is quantitatively documented in a non-mammaliaform cynodont. An ontogenetic comparison between Galesaurus and the more derived basal cynodont Thrinaxodon revealed differences in the timing and extent of sagittal crest development. In Galesaurus, the posterior sagittal crest, located behind the parietal foramen, developed relatively later in ontogeny, and the anterior sagittal crest rarely formed suggesting the anterior fibres of the temporalis were less developed than in Thrinaxodon. In contrast, craniomandibular features related to the masseters became more developed during the ontogeny of Galesaurus. The development of the adductor musculature appears to be one of the main factors influencing skull growth in these basal non-mammaliaform cynodonts.

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