Friday, October 07, 2016

Triopticus primus: a Triassic Archosauromorph Convergent With Pachycephalosaur Dinosaurs


Stocker et al


Similarities in body plan evolution, such as wings in pterosaurs, birds, and bats or limblessness in snakes and amphisbaenians, can be recognized as classical examples of convergence among animals [1, 2, 3]. We introduce a new Triassic stem archosaur that is unexpectedly and remarkably convergent with the “dome-headed” pachycephalosaur dinosaurs that lived over 100 million years later. Surprisingly, numerous additional taxa in the same assemblage (the Otis Chalk assemblage from the Dockum Group of Texas) demonstrate the early acquisition of morphological novelties that were later convergently evolved by post-Triassic dinosaurs. As one of the most successful clades of terrestrial vertebrates, dinosaurs came to occupy an extensive morphospace throughout their diversification in the Mesozoic Era [4, 5], but their distant relatives were first to evolve many of those “dinosaurian” body plans in the Triassic Period [6, 7, 8]. Our analysis of convergence between archosauromorphs from the Triassic Period and post-Triassic archosaurs demonstrates the early and extensive exploration of morphospace captured in a single Late Triassic assemblage, and we hypothesize that many of the “novel” morphotypes interpreted to occur among archosaurs later in the Mesozoic already were in place during the initial Triassic archosauromorph, largely non-dinosaurian, radiation and only later convergently evolved in diverse dinosaurian lineages.


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