Field of Science

Triassic Period: Reptiles Rule. Video from the Discovery Channel.

I assume this is supposed to be the southwest U.S. during the Late Triassic, but there is a hodge-podge of animals from different ages. Still pretty cool though; however, I wish the aetosaur and photosaur were on the scene a little longer, and where is the ubiquitous Postosuchus?

Large Body Size in Non-dinosaurian Dinosauromorphs - Evidence from a Large Silesaurid from Late Triassic of Tanzania

Barrett, P. M., Nesbitt, S. J., and B. R. Peecook. 2014. A large-bodied silesaurid from the Lifua Member of the Manda beds (Middle Triassic) of Tanzania and its implications for body-size evolution in Dinosauromorpha. Gondwana Research (accepted manuscript).

- Many dinosaur lineages were characterised by wide ranges of body-size, ranging from taxa that were <1 m in length to the largest of all terrestrial vertebrates. On the other hand, the closest relatives of dinosaurs, the non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs, such as Marasuchus and lagerpetids, were small-bodied animals with little variation in body-size. Here, we describe a partial femur of an unexpectedly large-bodied silesaurid (non-dinosaurian dinosauriform) from the Lifua Member of the Manda beds (?late Anisian) from southwestern Tanzania. This specimen (NHMUK R16303) is estimated to have had a femoral length of approximately 345 mm, which exceeds that of many Triassic and Lower Jurassic dinosaurs, and is either a large individual of the contemporary Asilisaurus kongwe or represents a new and otherwise unknown silesaurid taxon. In either case, it shows that body-size increases were more prevalent among early dinosauromorphs than realised previously. Moreover, silesaurid size increase occurred in parallel with that in early dinosaurs, alongside the convergent acquisition of other features related to locomotion and herbivory. However, Late Triassic faunas including large-bodied sauropodomorph and theropod dinosaurs lack similarly-sized non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs, whereas the Lifua Member fauna includes both a large silesaurid and the early ?dinosaur Nyasasaurus, which overlapped in size.

New Open Access Paper Discussing the Rise of Dinosaurs

Benton, M.J., Forth, J., and M.C. Langer. 2014. Models for the rise of dinosaurs. Modern Biology 24:R87-R95. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.063

Abstract - Dinosaurs arose in the early Triassic in the aftermath of the greatest mass extinction ever and became hugely successful in the Mesozoic. Their initial diversification is a classic example of a large-scale macroevolutionary change. Diversifications at such deep-time scales can now be dissected, modelled and tested. New fossils suggest that dinosaurs originated early in the Middle Triassic, during the recovery of life from the devastating Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Improvements in stratigraphic dating and a new suite of morphometric and comparative evolutionary numerical methods now allow a forensic dissection of one of the greatest turnovers in the history of life. Such studies mark a move from the narrative to the analytical in macroevolutionary research, and they allow us to begin to answer the proposal of George Gaylord Simpson, to explore adaptive radiations using numerical methods.

The Foot of Poposaurus gracilis, Further Convergence with Theropod Dinosaurs

....and the answer to the question we've all been wondering...what type of footprint would Poposaurus have left? It appears that Poposaurus  probably could have left a Grallator-like track.

Farlow, J. O., Schachner, E. R., Sarrazin, J. C., Klein, H., and P. J. Currie. 2014. Pedal Proportions of Poposaurus gracilis: Convergence and Divergence in the Feet of Archosaurs. The Anatomical Record, Early View. DOI: 10.1002/ar.22863.

Abstract - The crocodile-line basal suchian Poposaurus gracilis had body proportions suggesting that it was an erect, bipedal form like many dinosaurs, prompting questions of whether its pedal proportions, and the shape of its footprint, would likewise “mimic” those of bipedal dinosaurs. We addressed these questions through a comparison of phalangeal, digital, and metatarsal proportions of Poposaurus with those of extinct and extant crocodile-line archosaurs, obligate or facultatively bipedal non-avian dinosaurs, and ground birds of several clades, as well as a comparison of the footprint reconstructed from the foot skeleton of Poposaurus with known early Mesozoic archosaurian ichnotaxa. Bivariate and multivariate analyses of phalangeal and digital dimensions showed numerous instances of convergence in pedal morphology among disparate archosaurian clades. Overall, the foot of Poposaurus is indeed more like that of bipedal dinosaurs than other archosaur groups, but is not exactly like the foot of any particular bipedal dinosaur clade. Poposaurus likely had a digitigrade stance, and its footprint shape could have resembled grallatorid ichnotaxa, unless digit I of the foot of Poposaurus commonly left an impression.