Field of Science

Morphology and Diversity of the Mandibular Symphysis of Archosauriforms

Excellent study that demonstrates changes in mandibular symphyses through individual clades;  changes that appear to be influenced by changes in dental morphology, which presumably reflect differences in diet. This paper is part of the upcoming volume on early archosaurs.
Holliday, C. M., and S. J. Nesbitt. 2013. Morphology and diversity of the mandibular symphysis of archosauriforms In Nesbitt, S. J., Desojo, J. B. and R. B. Irmis (eds) Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 379,
Abstract: Archosauromorphs radiated into numerous trophic niches during the Mesozoic, many of which were accommodated by particular suites of cranial adaptations and feeding behaviours. The mandibular symphysis, the joint linking the mandibles, is a poorly understood craniomandibular joint that may offer significant insight into skull function and feeding ecology. Using comparative data from extant amniotes, we investigated the skeletal anatomy and osteological correlates of relevant soft tissues in a survey of archosauromorph mandibular symphyses. Characters were identified and their evolution mapped using a current phylogeny of archosauriforms with the addition of non-archosauriform archosauromorphs. Extinct taxa with the simple Class I condition (e.g. proterochampsids, ‘rauisuchians’), rugose Class II (aetosaurs, protosuchians, silesaurids) and interdigitating Class III symphyses (e.g. phytosaurs, crocodyliforms) and finally fused Class IV (avians) build the joints in expected ways, although they differ in the contributions of bony elements and Meckel’s cartilage. Optimization of the different classes of symphyses across archosauromorph clades indicates that major iterative transitions from plesiomorphic Class I to derived, rigid Class II–IV symphyses occurred along the lines to phytosaurs, aetosaurs, a subset of poposauroids, crocodyliformes, pterosaurs and birds. These transitions in symphyseal morphology also appear to track changes in dentition and potentially diet.

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