Monday, May 9, 2011

Metriorhynchid Functional Morphology and A New Baurusuchid

Life reconstruction (by Rodolfo Nogueira) of Campinasuchus dinizi from Carvalho et al 2011.
Carvalho, I. D. S., V. D. P. A. Teixeira, M. L. D. F. Ferraz, L. C. B. Ribeiro, A. G. Martinelli, F. M. Neto, J. J. W. Seritch, G. C. Cunha, I. C. Cunha, and P. F. Ferraz. 2011. "Campinasuchus dinizi gen. et sp. nov., a new Late Cretaceous baurusuchid (Crocodyliformes) from the Bauru Basin, Brazil" Zootaxa 2871: 19-42 Open access online.

A remarkably diverse terrestrial mesoeucrocodylian fauna has been recovered from the continental Cretaceous of the Bauru Basin in fluvial and lacustrine deposits. Members of at least six distinct groups are now recognized, including notosuchids, sphagesaurids, candidodontids, peirosaurids, trematochampsids, and baurusuchids. These mostly terrestrial crocodyliforms potentially developed ecological strategies that allowed them to live in a hot and arid climate during the Cretaceous. A new genus and species of Baurusuchidae, Campinasuchus dinizi gen. et sp. nov., is established on the basis of several partial skulls and skeletons from the Turonian-Santonian Adamantina Formation. This taxon is notable for its relatively short, anteriorly tapering snout, marked maxillary heterodonty with third maxillary and fourth dentary teeth extremely enlarged relative to other teeth, and the presence of a large anteroposterior depression on each palatine between the palatal fenestrae. The presence of yet another crocodyliform from the Adamantina Formation reinforces the idea that aridity, or maybe a seasonally warm and dry climate alternating with periods of higher rainfall, drove the diversification of terrestrial crocodyliforms throughout the Late Cretaceous.

Young, M. T., M. A. Bell, and S. L. Brusatte. 2011. "Craniofacial form and function in Metriorhynchidae (Crocodylomorpha: Thalattosuchia): modelling phenotypic evolution with maximum-likelihood methods." Biology Letters. Published online. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0357

Metriorhynchid crocodylomorphs were the only group of archosaurs to fully adapt to a pelagic lifestyle. During the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, this group diversified into a variety of ecological and morphological types, from large super-predators with a broad short snout and serrated teeth to specialized piscivores/teuthophages with an elongate tubular snout and uncarinated teeth. Here, we use an integrated repertoire of geometric morphometric (form), biomechanical finite-element analysis (FEA; function) and phylogenetic data to examine the nature of craniofacial evolution in this clade. FEA stress values significantly correlate with morphometric values representing skull length and breadth, indicating that form and function are associated. Maximum-likelihood methods, which assess which of several models of evolution best explain the distribution of form and function data on a phylogenetic tree, show that the two major metriorhynchid subclades underwent different evolutionary modes. In geosaurines, both form and function are best explained as evolving under ‘random’ Brownian motion, whereas in metriorhynchines, the form metrics are best explained as evolving under stasis and the function metric as undergoing a directional change (towards most efficient low-stress piscivory). This suggests that the two subclades were under different selection pressures, and that metriorhynchines with similar skull shape were driven to become functionally divergent.