Metoposaurs are a very common component of the Chinle Formation fauna, especially the lower portions. I often get questions on the function of the ornament of metoposaur dermal bones (skull, clavicles, interclavicle) and finally some of those questions can be answered.
Witzmann, F., Scholz, H., Mueller, J., and N. Kardjilov. 2010. Sculpture and vascularization of dermal bones, and the implications for the physiology of basal tetrapods. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, early online. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00599.x
Abstract - Sculpture of dermal bones and their vascularization in basal tetrapods are closely connected. Ontogenetic data suggest that the large vessels that coursed to the superficial bone surface induced the formation of sculptural ridges and tubercles around their openings. Imprints show that the vessels continued on the bone surface and coursed within furrows or pits, where they were protected by the sculpture from mechanical damage. Dermal bone histology indicates a consolidation of the integument in basal tetrapods by strong, mineralized Sharpey’s fibres in the sculptural ridges and tubercles, and by the presence of metaplastic tissue in several taxa. Because of the tight integration of bone and dermis, the large vessels were not able to spread over the sculptural elements, but instead had to pass interosseously. The diverse sculptural morphologies depend on the variation in height and width of the ‘nodal points’ and their connecting ridges, and in the size and shape of the enclosed cells and furrows. A principal component analysis (PCA) and discriminant function analysis (DFA) of 47 basal tetrapod taxa with 12 discrete characters shows that dermal sculpture is suited for distinguishing some main basal tetrapod lineages. Taxa that are interpreted as being largely aquatic have generally a more regular sculpture than presumably terrestrial ones.
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