We’ve looked at DGS (Digital Graphic Segregation) before here, here and here. Today another example, pulling more data from a published photo of a prehistoric reptile crushed flat on an Early Cretaceous matrix. It’s Eichstaettisaurus gouldi (Evans et al. 2004, Figs. 1-7), a pre-snake, which we looked at yesterday.
DGS is a method of tracing the bones (Figs. 2-6), then using the tracings to reconstruct the animal (Fig. 7). On the other hand, by using traditional methods, Evans et al. (2004) produced conventional tracings (Fig. 1).
Overall the specimen (Fig. 2) appears to lack most of its dorsal vertebrae and most of its tail. However, using DGS enables these areas to provide data.
Here (Fig. 3) the foot of E. gouldi is traced using colors for digits. Compare this data to the original tracings of Evans et al. (2014, Fig. 1). All of the elements are similar to those in sister taxa. All PILs (parallel interphalangeal lines) are continuous.
Here (Fig. 4) is the skull in ventral view with elements identified (for mandible and palatal bones see below). Rather than a hyoid, as originally tentatively identified, a supratemporal (St) is positively identified here and there’s another one, too. Elements not originally identified include the prefrontal (Prf), postfrontal (Pof), lacrimal (La), nasal (Na), opisthotic, (Op) and supra occipital (So).
Here (Fig. 5) the mandible elements are digitally segregated. Here teeth are identified. In figure 1 no teeth are identified, but Evans et al. (2004) do note the presence of teeth in the text.
Here (Fig. 6) the palate elements are identified using DGS. They are few and far between. Evans et al. only identified the pterygoids, premaxilla and maxilla.
Eichstaettisaurus schroederi (Fig. 7) has a more generalized (plesiomorphic) shape. The palate can be partly seen within the orbit, and the elements are more robust than in E. gouldi.
A reconstruction of E. gouldi (Fig. 8) demonstrates the validity of the DGS interpretations as all parts fit both mechanically and phylogenetically. See Varanus, Ardeosaurus, Adriosaurus (Fig. 9) and Pachyrhachis for phylogenetic bracketing. Thus, all the parts are transitional morphologies between varanids and basal snakes. Even the anterior bowing of the radius is found in Adriosaurus.
Eichstaettisaurus gouldi is the first taxon in the lineage of snakes to demonstrate an elongate torso and reduced limbs (though not by very much at this point). These become exaggerated in Adriosaurus and Pachyrhachis.
Evans SE, Raia P and Barbera C 2004. New lizards and rhynchocephalians from the Lower Cretaceous of southern Italy. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 49:393-408.