Saturday, November 26, 2011

Metriorhynchid Body Size

Young, M. T., Bell, M. A., De Andrade, M. B. and Brusatte, S. L.. 2011. "Body size estimation and evolution in metriorhynchid crocodylomorphs: implications for species diversification and niche partitioning." Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 163: 1199–1216. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2011.00734.x

Metriorhynchids were a peculiar group of fully marine Mesozoic crocodylomorphs, some of which reached large body size and were probably apex predators. The estimation of their total body length in the past has proven problematic. Rigorous size estimation was provided using five complete metriorhynchid specimens, by means of regression equations derived from basicranial and femoral length against total body length. The use of the Alligator femoral regression equation as a proxy to estimate metriorhynchid total body length led to a slight underestimation, whereas cranial regression equations of extant genera resulted in an overestimation of body length. Therefore, the scaling of crania and femora to total body length of metriorhynchids is noticeably different from that of extant crocodylians, indicating that extant crocodylians are not ideal proxies for size reconstruction of extinct taxa that deviate from their semi-aquatic morphotype. The lack of a correlation between maximum, minimum, or the range of generic body lengths with species richness demonstrates that species diversification is driven by factors other than just variation in body size. Maximum likelihood modelling also found no evidence for directionality in body size evolution. However, niche partitioning in Metriorhynchidae is mediated not only by craniodental differentiation, as shown by previous studies, but also by body size variation.

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