Where does the frigate bird nest?

For a blog focused on pterosaurs
it sure took a long time to take a look at the extant frigate bird (Figs. 1-3; genus: Fregata), a modern analog for many of the sea-faring clades of pterosaurs in terms of wing shape (long span, short chord) and gliding ability (see below).

FIgure 1. Fregata in flight.

FIgure 1. Fregata in flight. Note the narrow-chord wing membrane, as in all pterosaurs.

Between pelicans and cormorants 
In the large reptile tree (LRT, 1227 taxa) the frigate bird nests between the clade Pelecanus + Balaeniceps (the shoebill) and Phalacrocorax (the cormorant). The shoebill has the longest legs in the clade, so it is the most primitive member. Most studies, including the LRT and DNA analyses, associate frigate birds with pelicans, skuas and petrels, but some link frigate birds with a larger list including herons, ibises, spoonbills, hamerkops, penguins, loons, gannets, and cormorants. Why can’t DNA be more specific? That’s a wide gamut of taxa. The LRT is specific and fully resolved.

FIgure 2. Fregata skull with a closeup of the tiny jugal.

FIgure 2. Fregata skull with a closeup of the tiny jugal.

Interesting that frigate birds don’t like to get wet
while their sisters, cormorants dive for food, but then have to stand with wings dripping while drying out. Distinct from ducks, cormorant feathers don’t shed water with an oily coat.

Figure 4. Skeleton of Fregata, the frigate bird. Note the long bill, long neck and long antebrachium, perhaps the closest living analog to Cretaceous ornithocheirid pterosaurs.

Figure 3. Skeleton of Fregata, the frigate bird. Note the long bill, long neck and long antebrachium, perhaps the closest living analog to Cretaceous ornithocheirid and pteranodontid pterosaurs (Fig. 5). Consider this a shoebill stork and/or pelican with a slender bill and very short legs and you will be close to its phylogenetic grade.

Fregata magnificens (Lacépède, 1799; up to 56 cm long) inflates its throat sac with air, like a balloon, to display its bright red color (distinct from the pelican throat sac, which fills with water and prey). According to Wikipedia, “frigatebirds spend most of the day in flight hunting for food, and roost on trees or cliffs at night. The duration of parental care is among the longest of any bird species; frigatebirds are only able to breed every other year. Fossils date back to the Eocene, 50 mya.” 

Figure 2. Cearadactylus, Anhanguera and Pteranodon compared. The inset compares the humerus of Anhanguera and Pteranodon.

Figure 4. Cearadactylus, Anhanguera and Pteranodon compared. The inset compares the humerus of Anhanguera and Pteranodon. Compare proportions to the skeleton of Fregata. Look at those long wing tips, completely different from flightless pterosaurs, including large to giant azhdarchids. Most workers consider these taxa to be closely related, but the LRT does not confirm that.

Tested frigate birds
(Huey and Deutsch 2016) stayed aloft for two months without ever touching the ground riding cumulus thermals up to 6500 feet above sea level. 

Like ornithocheirid and pteranodontid pterosaurs
the torso is small and the wing has a narrow chord and a wide span in Fregata. This is also like modern man-made gliders, and unlike the proportions found in large to giant azhdarchids, which could not fly at all, contra traditional thinking, based on their relatively short distal wing finger phalanges (like those of small flightless pterosaurs).

References
Huey RB and Deutsch C 2016. How frigate birds soar around the doldrums. Science 353 (6294):26–27.
Lacépède BGÉ de 1799. Discours d’ouverture et de clôture du cours d’histoire naturelle : donné dans le Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, l’an VII de la République, et tableaux méthodiques des mammifères et des oiseaux, Paris.

wiki/Frigatebird

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Bergamodactylus (basal pterosaur) back ‘under the microscope’

This all started with Kellner 2015
who proposed 6 states of pterosaur ontogeny based on skeletal fusion of discrete elements. This hypothesis was tested in phylogenetic analysis and shown to be invalid. Pterosaurs don’t fuse bones during ontogeny. Fusion appears in phylogenic patterns. Oblivious to this fact, Dalla Vecchia 2018 dismissed Kellner’s hypothesis by writing, “Kellner’s six ontogenetic stages are an oversimplification mixing ontogenetic features of different taxa that probably had distinct growth patterns. Finding commonality across all pterosaurs is impossible, because there is much variation in pterosaur ontogeny and the available sample is highly restricted.” 

Neither Kellner nor Dalla Vecchia recognize
the lepidosaurian affinities of pterosaurs, and do not realize that as lepidosaurs pterosaurs mature differently than archosaurs. Some lepidosaurs continue growing after fusing elements (Maisano 2002). Others never fuse elements. Fusion of elements in pterosaurs is phylogenetic, not ontogenetic. Pterosaurs mature isometrically, not allometrically as proven by every full-term embryo and every known juvenile among a wide variety of pterosaur specimens. Plus, all of the small purported Solnhofen juveniles phylogenetically nest as key transitional taxa linking larger long-tail primitive pterosaurs to larger short-tail derived pterosaurs (Peters 2007). That’s how those clades survived the extinction events that doomed their fellow, larger, longer-tailed kin.

Kellner 2015 also
distinguished a small pterosaur MPUM 6009 from the holotype of Eudimorphodon and from Carniadactylus (MFSN 1797, Dalla Vecchia 2009; Fig. 1) and gave MPUM 6009 the name Bergamodactylus (Fig. 1) after Peters 2007 had done the same (without renaming MPUM 6009), in phylogenetic analysis. Neither Kellner nor Dalla Vecchia performed a phylogenetic analysis, but preferred to describe similar bones. That rarely works out well.

Figure 1. Bergamodactylus compared to Carniadactylus. These two nest apart from one another in the LRT.

Figure 1. Bergamodactylus (MPUM 6009) compared to Carniadactylus (MFSN 1797). These two nest apart from one another in the LRT. Contra Dalla Vecchia 2018, these two share relatively few traits in common. The feet, cervicals, sternal complex coracoids and legs are different.

Dalla Vecchia 2018 concludes, 
“The anatomical differences between MPUM 6009 and MFSN 1797 are too small to support the erection a new genus for MPUM 6009.” That is incorrect (Fig. 1). Several taxa nest between these two taxa in the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 232 taxa). Their feet alone (Fig. 1) were shown to be very different in Peters (2011).

Figure 1. Bergamodactylus compared to Cosesaurus. Hypothetical hatchling also shown.

Figure 2. Bergamodactylus compared to Cosesaurus. Hypothetical hatchling also shown.

From the Dalla Vecchia 2018 abstract
“Six stages (OS1-6) were identified by Kellner (2015) to establish the ontogeny of a given pterosaur fossil. These were used to support the erection of several new Triassic taxa including Bergamodactylus wildi, which is based on a single specimen (MPUM 6009) from the Norian of Lombardy, Italy. However, those ontogenetic stages are not valid because different pterosaur taxa had different tempos of skeletal development. Purported diagnostic characters of Bergamodactylus wildi are not autapomorphic or were incorrectly identified. Although minor differences do exist between MPUM 6009 and the holotype of Carniadactylus rosenfeldi, these do not warrant generic differentiation. Thus, MPUM 6009 is here retained within the taxon Carniadactylus rosenfeldi as proposed by Dalla Vecchia (2009a).” \

Dalla Vecchia is basing his opinion on comparing a few cherry-picked traits, possibly convergent, rather than running both taxa and a long list of other pterosaurs through phylogenetic analysis, to see where unbiased software nests both taxa among the others.

Plus, as mentioned above, both authors are working from an antiquated set or rules that no longer apply now that pterosaurs have been tested and validated as lepidosaurs.

Figure 2. Bergamodactylus skull colorized with DGS and reconstructed.

Figure 3. Bergamodactylus skull colorized with DGS and reconstructed. Palatal and occipital bones shown here were missed by Dalla Vecchia 2018 and prior workers who did not use DGS.

Phylogenetic analysis
employing a large gamut of taxa, like the large reptile tree (LRT, 1215 taxa), invalidates traditional arguments that pterosaurs arose without obvious precedent among the archosauriforms, which most pterosaur workers, including both Kellner and Dalla Vecchia, still cling to, despite no evidence of support. Pterosaurs arose from fenestrasaur tritosaur lepidosaurs (Fig. 7).

Figure 4. The skull of Bergamodactylus traced by Kellner 2015, Dalla Vecchia 2018 and by me using DGS.

Figure 4. The skull of Bergamodactylus traced by Kellner 2015, Dalla Vecchia 2018 and by me using DGS. See figure 2 for a reconstruction of the DGS tracing.  Prior authors missed all the palatal and occipital bones along with several others.

The metacarpus of Bergamodactylus
has a few disarticulated elements. When replaced to their in vivo positions the axial rotation of metacarpal 4 (convergent with the axial rotation of pedal digit 1 in birds) enables the wing finger to fold in the plane of the hand, not against the palmar surface. Manual digit 5, a vestige, goes along for the ride, rotating the dorsal surface of the hand (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Metacarpus of Bergamodactylus (MPUM 6009) in situ and reconstructed.

Figure 5. Metacarpus of Bergamodactylus (MPUM 6009) in situ and reconstructed. Apparently the pteroid splintered apart, overlooked by those with direct access to the specimen. The distal carpals are not co-ossified, as they are in later pterosaurs. The laterally longer fingers, up to digit 4, is a tritosaur trait. Note ungual 1 lies on top of the posterior face of metacarpal 4. That was overlooked by those who had direct access to the specimen, which supports the utility of DGS.

 

Bergamodactylus, as the most basal pterosaur,
is itself a transitional taxon bridging non-volant fenestrasaurs with all other pterosaurs. And the wing (Fig. 6) was about the last thing to evolve.

Figure 6. Click to enlarge. The origin of the pterosaur wing and the migration of the pteroid and preaxial carpal. A. Sphenodon. B. Huehuecuetzpalli. C. Cosesaurus. D. Sharovipteryx. E. Longisquama. F-H. The Milan specimen MPUM 6009, a basal pterosaur.

Bergamodactylus to scale
with Cosesaurus and Longisquama (Fig. 7), demonstrate the variety within the Fenestrasauria. Pterosaurs arose more or less directly from a sister to Cosesaurus (based on overall proportions), but note that both Sharovipteryx and Longisquama have more pterosaurian traits than Cosesaurus does. This pattern is convergent with that of birds, of which several clades of Solnhofen bird descendants arose of similar yet distinct structure.

Figure 8. Taxa at the genesis of pterosaurs: Cosesaurus, Longisquama and Bergamodactylus.

Figure 7. Taxa at the genesis of pterosaurs: Cosesaurus, Longisquama and Bergamodactylus.

See rollover images
of Bergamodactylus in situ here. You’ll see how DGS is able to pull out post-cranial details overlooked by others in the chaos and confusion of layers of bones and impressions in MPUM 6009. Cranial details are best seen in figure 3 above, which is based on higher resolution images.

References
Dalla Vecchia FM 2009. Anatomy and systematics of the pterosaur Carniadactylus gen. n. rosenfeldi (Dalla Vecchia, 1995). Riv. It. Paleontol. Strat., 115: 159-186.
Dalla Vecchia FM 2018. Comments on Triassic pterosaurs with a commentary on the “ontogenetic stages” of Kellner (2015) and the validity of Bergamodactylus wildi.  Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 124(2): 317-341. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13130/2039-4942/10099 https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/RIPS/article/view/10099
Kellner AWA. 2015. Comments on Triassic pterosaurs with discussion about ontogeny and description of new taxa. Anais Acad. Brasil. Ciênc., 87(2): 669-689.
Maisano JA 2002. Terminal fusions of skeletal elements as indicators of maturity in squamates. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22:268-275.
Peters D. 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification. Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605

4 nostrils in Chamaeleo?

The skull of the smooth chameleon,
Chamaeleo laevigatus (Figs. 1, 2), has two extra holes in the anterodorsal plane of its rostrum (Fig. 1). Despite appearances, the holes visible in top view are not nostrils.

Figure 1. The chameleon Trioceros jacksonii colored using DGS. The sutures are difficult to see in the original skull, much easier in the colorized tracing.

Figure 1. The chameleons Chamaeleo and Trioceros. Note the lateral nostrils on both taxa. Chamaeleo has two more openings in dorsal view.  Not sure if Trioceros was the same. Note the giant pterygoids on Chamaeleo. The prefrontal and postfrontal are in contact. The premaxilla is tiny in ventral view.

The Chamaeleo rostrum
is angled at about 50º from the jawline. Given just the skull, you might think those openings in dorsal view are nostrils. With skin and scales on (Fig. 2), the nostrils are located on the lateral plane, as in other chameleons, like Trioceros (Fig. 1), surrounded by traditional circumnarial bones.

Figure 2. Chamaeleo laevigatus invivo. Red arrow points to external naris.

Figure 2. Chamaeleo laevigatus invivo. Red arrow points to external naris.

Diaz and Trainer 2015 published
some nice images of chameleon hands and feet, colorized here (Fig. 3) for additional clarity. The metacarpals and metatarsals are the bones that radiate. The phalanges are all vertical here.

Figure 3. The manus and pes skeleton of a chameleon from Diaz et al. 2016 with colors added and the second from left image relabels the fingers, correcting a typo.

Figure 3. The manus and pes skeleton of a chameleon from Diaz et al. 2015 with colors added and the second from left image relabels the fingers, correcting a typo. Manual 1 has only two phalanges. The metacarpals and metatarsals open horizontally in these images. Note the ankle elements are not co-ossified.

References
Diaz RE Jr. and Trainor PA 2015. Hand/foot splitting and the ‘re-evolution’ of mesopodial skeletal elements during the evolution and radiation of chameleons. BMC Evolutionary Biology201513:184.

wiki/Smooth_chameleon
digimorph.org/Chamaeleo_laevigatus/
Chamaeleo laevigatus GRAY, 1863″. The Reptile Database

Monodon: THE weirdest skull of all mammals

Today two blogposts are published
because they relate strongly to one another. Here is the post on torsioned tenrec/odontocete skulls.

Figure 1. Distinct from most narwhals, this skull also has right tusk emerging from the canine position. And yes, that's the maxilla covering most of the skull, even above the orbit! I added an eyeball here to help locate the orbit. The mesethmoid is the red bone that divides the naris (blow hole).

Figure 1. Distinct from most narwhals, this skull also has right tusk emerging from the canine position. And yes, that’s the maxilla covering most of the skull, even above the orbit! I added an eyeball here to help locate the orbit. The mesethmoid is the red bone that divides the naris (blow hole).

The narwhal (genus Monodon, Fig. 1)
is famous for having one giant spiral tooth sticking out ahead of its skull. Monodon also has one of the most bizarre skulls of all mammals and departs from that of all tetrapods, partly due to the root of the tooth and partly due to the migration of the nares to the back of the skull. Except for its tips, the jugal is missing. The maxilla, lacks teeth (if you don’t count the tusk) and rather than extending below the orbit, extends over the forehead, following the naris on its migration to the back of the skull. The bulbous portion of the skull, the cranium is made of parietals in most mammals, but the parietals are greatly reduced, nearly absent in Monodon.

Figure 2. The beluga, Delphinapterus, is closely related to, though less derived than the narwhal, Monodon. More teeth of a regular shape were present in the jaws. Those two yellow arrows indicate a misalignment of the centerline of the top of the occiput vs. the bottom. Compare to figure 3.

Figure 2. The beluga, Delphinapterus, is closely related to, though less derived than the narwhal, Monodon. More teeth of a regular shape were present in the jaws. Those two yellow arrows indicate a misalignment of the centerline of the top of the occiput vs. the bottom. Compare to figure 3. The mesethmoid is the red bone in the blow hole. This skull is also bent left, as in the narwhal.

The sister taxon of the narwhal
is the beluga (genus: Delphinapterus). It helps one understand the narwhal a bit better. At least the beluga has a few traditional teeth. These two taxa nest together in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1087 taxa, Fig. 4).

Figure 3. Chonecetus has a more primitive skull with nares closer to the snout tip and no maxilla above the orbit.

Figure 3. Chonecetus has a more primitive skull with nares closer to the snout tip and no maxilla above the orbit. Not a transitional taxon to baleen whales, which have another separate origin. This drawing lacks any indication of torsion, perhaps because the back half was separated from the front half and the artist ‘repaired’ the twist.

Less derived and more primitive
is Chonecetus (Fig. 3), which has nares closer to the snout tip, and more teeth, and more cranium. This taxon and its sister, Aetiocetus, have been traditionally considered transitional from toothed whales to baleen whales, like Balaenoptera, but baleen whales have an entirely separate ancestry derived from desmostylians, like Desmostylus.

Figure 5. Subset of the LRT focusing on the tenrec/odontocete clade with several whales added.

Figure 4. Subset of the LRT focusing on the tenrec/odontocete clade with several whales added.

A recent paper on Monodon tusks (Nweeia et al. 2012)
found “the narwhal tusks are the expression of canine teeth and that vestigial teeth have no apparent functional characteristics and are following a pattern consistent with evolutionary obsolescence.” (See Figs. 5, 6).

Figure 4. Image from Nweeia et al. 2012 showing the unerupted right tusk and the root of the left tusk in the male narwhal along with two unerupted tusks in the female.

Figure 5. Image from Nweeia et al. 2012 showing the unerupted right tusk and the root of the left tusk in the male narwhal along with two unerupted tusks in the female. Note the angle of the posterior skull relative to the anterior midline.

In dorsal or ventral view
it is clear that the the tusk (left) side of the skull is longer than the right side due to angling the posterior skull relative to the rostrum.

Figure 6. CT scans of a female narwhal (Monodon) showing soft tissues and unerupted teeth. Note the angle of the posterior skull relative to the anterior.

Figure 6. CT scans of a female narwhal (Monodon) showing soft tissues and unerupted teeth. Note the angle of the posterior skull relative to the anterior. The left side, the tusk side, is shorter than the right side in figure 5, so the label ‘ventral’ is an error here. This is a dorsal view of the female skull in figure 5. Always test scale bars and labels.

I wonder about the bending of the skull
toward the left in these two whales. Could asymmetry have anything to do with stereo auditory senses? Asymmetry is also found in owl skulls, another taxon that depends strongly on acute hearing for locating prey.

Figure 7. Fetal narwhal skull, here colorized from Nweenia et al. 2012. The jugal disappears in adults.

Figure 7. Fetal narwhal skull, here colorized from Nweenia et al. 2012. The jugal disappears in adults. The asymmetry is already apparent here.

Figure 8. Common bottle nose dolphin skull (genus: Tursiops) also displays a bit of asymmetry in dorsal view.

Figure 8. Common bottle nose dolphin skull (genus: Tursiops) also displays a bit of asymmetry in dorsal view. Note the yellow arrows on the parietal showing the wee bit of torsion here. 

Update:
With 1187 taxa and 231 traits full resolution was recovered in the LRT after running PAUP FOR 16 minutes and 15 seconds. The single best tree has 16,329 steps.

References
Linnaeus C 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.’
Nweeia MT et al. (9 co-authors) 2012. Vestigial tooth anatomy and tusk nomenclature for Monodon monoceros. The Anatomical Record 295:1006–1016.
Pallas PS 1766. Miscellanea Zoologica.

wiki/Narwhal
wiki/Beluga_whale

Ascendonanus nestleri: an early Permian iguanid, not a varanopid.

Please see:
https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-early-permian-ascendonanus-assemblage/ Which shows that of the five specimens assigned to Ascendonanus at least two are widely divergent. The other three have not yet been tested. One is an iguanid. Another is a basalmost diapsid.

Just out today by Spindler et al. 2018, but previewed earlier
“A new fossil amniote from the Fossil Forest of Chemnitz (Sakmarian-Artinskian transition, Germany) is described as Ascendonanus nestleri gen. et sp. nov., based on five articulated skeletons with integumentary preservation. The slender animals exhibit a generalistic, lizard-like morphology. However, their synapsid temporal fenestration, ventrally ridged centra and enlarged iliac blades indicate a pelycosaur-grade affiliation. Using a renewed data set for certain early amniotes with a similar typology found Ascendonanus to be a basal varanopid synapsid. This is the first evidence of a varanopid from Saxony and the third from Central Europe, as well as the smallest varanopid at all. Its greatly elongated trunk, enlarged autopodia and strongly curved unguals, along with taphonomical observations, imply an arboreal lifestyle in a dense forest habitat until the whole ecosystem was buried under volcanic deposits. Ascendonanus greatly increases the knowledge on rare basal varanopids; it also reveals a so far unexpected ecotype of early synapsids. Its integumentary structures present the first detailed and soft tissue skin preservation of any Paleozoic synapsid.”

Except
Ascendonanus is not a varanopid synapsid. It’s an arboreal lepidosaur, an iguanid squamate in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1176 taxa, subset Fig. 3) with a typical skull, skin, size and niche typical for this clade. Only the torso has more vertebrae than is typical, but the related Liushusaurus also has more than 25 presacral vertebrae.

The Early Permian
is not where we expect to see lizards. No others are known from this period. Perhaps that is why Spindler et al. 2018 chose to restrict their taxon list to synapsids and their outgroups…and to ignore those upper temporal fenestrae, so plainly visible (Fig. 1). And note those slender, vertical epipterygoids. You don’t see those on synapsids.

Figure 1. The skull of Ascendonanus has a diapsid temporal configuration with clearly visible upper temporal fenestra and a typical iguanid skull morphology.

Figure 1. The skull of Ascendonanus has a diapsid temporal configuration with clearly visible upper temporal fenestra and a typical iguanid skull morphology. Note manual digit 5 preserved beneath the palm of the hand and restored to a lateral position. Not also the two jugal ascending processes, due to the split leaving medial and lateral halves of this bone. Note the two slender epipterygoids inside the temporal openings. Only squamates have such bones.

Ascendonanus nestleri (Spindler 2017, TA1045) is a German iguanid squamate found in vulcanized early Permian (291mya) sediments. It is the oldest lepidosaur known and based on its phylogeny, suggests an earlier radiation of lepidosaurs that earlier presumed. Other early lepidosauriformes include Paliguana and Lacertulus from the Late Permian. Other basal iguanids and pre-iguanids, like Scandensia, Calanguban, Euposaurus and Liushusaurus are late-survivors in the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. Iguana is a late-survivor of an early radiation living today.

Ascendonanus was originally described
as a tree-climbing varanopid synapsid by Spindler et al. (2018), but no lepidosauriformes were tested. The bones are difficult to see through the scaly skin (Fig. 1). Upper temporal fenestra and other lepidosaur traits were overlooked, perhaps because lizards are otherwise unknown from the Early Permian. No other basal synapsids were arboreal, but some Iguana species are also arboreal. No other varanopids are quite as small, but other iguanids are smaller.

By the way, like more paleo workers
Spindler et al. 2018 were unaware of the synapsid/prodiapsid split that removes many former varanopids from the clade Synapsida, despite their having typical synapsid temporal fenestration. One more reason NOT to label taxa based on traits, but to only label taxa after a wide gamut cladistic analysis, like the LRT.

Thus
we no longer call Ascendonanus a diapsid based on its diapsid temporal configuration. True diapsids, like Eudibamus and Petrolacosaurus, all nest within the Archosauromorpha. By convergence, all members of the clade Lepidosauriformes, including Ascendonanus, all have a diapsid temporal configuration or a modification based on that.

Figure 1. Ascendonanus nestler is an Early Permian lepidosaur nesting with Saniwa, a member of the Varanoidea.

Figure 2. Ascendonanus nestler is an Early Permian iguanid squamate lepidosaur, not a varanopid synapsid.

Sorry to say it,
taxon exclusion is once again the problem here. Spindler et al. 2018 were also following tradition when they included caseids and eothyrids in they analysis of synapsids. The Caseasauria nest elsewhere when given the opportunity to do so.

Figure 3. Ascendonanus cladogram, subset of the LRT. Here Ascendonanus nests with iguanids, not varanopids.

Figure 3. Ascendonanus cladogram, subset of the LRT. Here Ascendonanus nests with iguanids, not varanopids.

Figure 5. Ascendonanus pes.

Figure 5. Ascendonanus pes.

References
Rößler R, Zierold T, Feng Z, Kretzschmar R, Merbitz M, Annacker V and Schneider JW 2012. A snapshot of an early Permian ecosystem preserved by explosive volcanism:
New results from the Chemnitz Petrified Forest, Germany. PALAIOS, 2012, v. 27, p. 814–834.
Spindler F, Werneburg R, Schneider JW, Luthardt L, Annacker V and Räler R 2018. First arboreal ‘pelycosaurs’ (Synapsida: Varanopidae) from the early Permian Chemnitz Fossil Lagerstätte, SE Germany, with a review of varanopid phylogeny. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-018-0405-9

Eudimorphodon skull reconstructed

Figure 1. Eudimorphodon ranzii nests at the base of all non-dimorphodontid pterosaurs. Here bones are colorized using DGS and reconstructed below in several views. I can't identify all the bones here, just the easy ones. Red spot in orbit is the rotated pterygoid with teeth. Other pterosaurs don't have such teeth, but then other pterosaurs don't have such marginal teeth either. Line art from F. Dalla Vecchia.

Figure 1. Eudimorphodon ranzii nests at the base of all non-dimorphodontid pterosaurs. Here bones are colorized using DGS and reconstructed below in several views. I can’t identify all the bones here, just the easy ones. Red spot in orbit is the rotated pterygoid with teeth. Other pterosaurs don’t have such teeth, but then other pterosaurs don’t have such marginal teeth either. Line art from F. Dalla Vecchia.

This is Eudimorphodon (Late Triassic), the basalmost of all the non-dimorphodontid pterosaurs. The in situ skull is crushed (Fig. 1), so if you want to see what it looks like in three views you take the parts and put the model back together.

Figure 4. Lateral, dorsal and cross-sectional views of Eudimorphodon ranzii. Note the overlap of the posterior ribs over the hind limbs and the very wide torso. The cross section shows the 2nd dorsal ribs and the 23rd. Note the small ischium which could only produce small eggs. A little taller and wider than we thought before. The forelimbs are pretty short relative to the torso.

Figure 2. Lateral, dorsal and cross-sectional views of Eudimorphodon ranzii. Note the overlap of the posterior ribs over the hind limbs and the very wide torso. The cross section shows the 2nd dorsal ribs and the 23rd. Note the small ischium which could only produce small eggs. A little taller and wider than we thought before. The forelimbs are pretty short relative to the torso.

Eudimorphodon-pterygoid-teeth588.jpg

Close up of Eudimorphodon jugal and pterygoid (yellow) from an old photocopy from back in the day. 

We looked at
the post-cranium of Eudimorphodon earlier here. The torso is weirdly flattened, like that of Sharovipteryx, making the entire body a wing shape.

Figure 3. Sharovipteryx reconstructed. Note the flattened torso.

Figure 3. Sharovipteryx reconstructed. Note the flattened torso.

References
Wild R 1978. Die Flugsaurier (Reptilia, Pterosauria) aus der Oberen Trias von Cene bei Bergamo, Italien. Bolletino della Societa Paleontologica Italiana 17(2): 176–256.
Zambelli R 1973. Eudimorphodon ranzii gen.nov., sp.nov. Uno Pterosauro Triassico. Rendiconti Instituto Lombardo Accademia, (rend. sc.) 107: 27-32.

wiki/Eudimorphodon

 

New taxa in the lineage of right whales

Tubby right whales
like Eubalaena (Fig. 1) are different from sleek rorquals, like the blue whale (Balaenoptera). Right whales don’t have the huge throat sack that rorquals expand with sea water + krill. Instead longer baleen fringes and huge lower lips filter right whale meals and usually in a horizontal, rather than a vertical, attack formation.

Figure 1. Taxa in the lineage of right whales include Desmostylus, Caperea and Eubalaena. The tiny bit of jugal posterior to the orbit (in cyan) is found in all baleen whales tested so far. The frontals over the eyes are just roofing the eyeballs in Desmostylus, much wider in Caperea and much, much longer in Eubalaena.

Figure 1. Taxa in the lineage of right whales include Desmostylus, Caperea and Eubalaena. The tiny bit of jugal posterior to the orbit (in cyan) is found in all baleen whales tested so far. The frontals over the eyes are just roofing the eyeballs in Desmostylus, much wider in Caperea and much, much longer in Eubalaena.

According to Wikipedia:
“The pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata), a much smaller whale of the Southern Hemisphere, was until recently considered a member of the Family Balaenidae. However, they are not right whales at all, and their taxonomy is presently in doubt. Most recent authors place this species into the monotypic Family Neobalaenidae, but a 2012 study suggests that it is instead the last living member of the Family Cetotheriidae, a family previously considered extinct.”

That 2012 study was by Marx and Fordyce. The large reptile tree (LRT, 1060 taxa) does not support that assignment, perhaps because Marx and Fordyce omitted tenrecs and desmostylians from their whale analysis. At present all cetiotheres in the LRT have straight rostra and mandibles, a far cry from the dipped snout of these taxa. Note the deep baleen in Caperea (Fig. 1). That’s a right whale trait.

Figue 2. Caperea is a transitional taxon between tubby Desmostylus and tubby Eubalaena. Note the tiny manus (flipper). It is neotenous. See text for details. Note the short tail, not much longer than the tail found in Desmostylus.

Figue 2. Caperea is a transitional taxon between tubby Desmostylus and tubby Eubalaena. Note the tiny manus (flipper). It is neotenous. See text for details. Note the short tail, not much longer than the tail found in Desmostylus.

Caperea marginata (The pygmy right whale; Bisconti 2012, Fordyce and Marx 2013) looks like a small blue whale, but has long, inclned ribs, only one lumbar vertbra, and a short tail. The mandible is deep and concave ventrally. Like Eubalaena the lacrimal is deeper than the maxilla. Note the tiny forelimb. The manus has a few extra bones that, when put back together, create a digit 1. Mid-phalanges (3.2, 4.2, 4.3) lost in basal therapsids reappear in this taxon with a netonous tiny manus.

Figure 2. Limusaurus also has four fingers and a scapula with a robust ventral area, like Majungasaurus, but those four fingers are not the same four fingers found in Majungasaurus.

Figure 3. Limusaurus also has an extra digit medial to the other three common to most therapies. We call that digit zero, otherwise found in certain very basal tetrapods only.

We’ve seen this before.
Remember Limusaurus? (If not, check out Fig. 3) That’s the oviraptorid-like theropod with an equally tiny manus provided with an extra medial digit (digit zero). Same thing here provides the reappearance of digit 1, reduced or absent in all ancestors beginning with Mesonyx. And THAT explains the reappearance of manual digit 1 (the thumb) in the right whale, Eubalaena (Fig. 1), the only exception in this clade of thumbless taxa.

Figure x. Desmostylus skull in several views. Note the nasals have a different shape (upper left) than originally traced (lower right). Arrows point to wider mandibles than rostrum.

Figure x. Desmostylus skull in several views. Note the nasals have a different shape (upper left) than originally traced (lower right). Arrows point to wider mandibles than rostrum.

Little things to look for in desmostylians retained by baleen whales

  1. The mandible is wider than the rostrum (Fig. x). That’s where the giant lower lips arise.
  2. A bit of jugal is attached to the front of the squamosal, even when the portion below the orbit is missing.
  3. The reduction of teeth is completed in baleen whales
  4. The ventral portion of the rostrum is visible in lateral view
  5. The anterior tips of the mandibles either have tusks or the alveoli  from which tusks once emerged. Here (Fig. x) the tusks are tiny.
  6. Same with the anterior maxillae, but smaller because those tusks disappear earlier.  Here (Fig. x) the tusks are tiny. Blame it on neotony.
  7. The tail series of Caperea is really quite short (Fig. 2)—and shorter still IF you imagine a former pelvis the size of the one in Desmostylus, now greatly reduced (Fig. 1). And that is a big part of the solution to the lack of a large tail in desmostylians: don’t lengthen the tail…shrink that giant pelvis!!! And blame it on neotony.
Figure 7. Desmostylus jaws with green and blue arrows pointing to buried canine and anterior dentary tusks. Compare to gray whale rostrum in figure 6.

Figure 4. Desmostylus jaws with green and blue arrows pointing to buried canine and anterior dentary tusks. Compare to gray whale rostrum in figure 6.

Figure 8. Gray whale (Eschirctius) anterior rostrum. Green arrow points to the canine alveolus lacking a tooth. Missing mandible teeth would have appeared along anterior rims of the mandibles (blue arrow), as in desmostylians.

Figure 5. Gray whale (Eschirctius) anterior rostrum. Green arrow points to the canine alveolus lacking a tooth. Missing mandible teeth would have appeared along anterior rims of the mandibles (blue arrow), as in desmostylians.

We’ll look at
cetiotheres and rorquals in the next few days.

References
Domning DP, Ray, CE and McKenna, MC 1986. Two new Oligocene desmostylians and a discussion of Tethytherian systematics. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology. 59. pp. 1–56.
Fordyce RE and Marx FG 2013. The pygmy right whale Caperea marginata: the last of the cetotheres. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280(1753):1–6.
Marsh OC 1888. Notice of a new fossil sirenian, from California. American Journal of Science 25(8):94–96.
Reinhart RH 1959. A review of the Sirenia and Desmostylia. University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 36(1):1–146.
Santos G, Parham J and Beatty B 2016. New data on the ontogeny and senescence of Desmostylus (Desmostylia, Mammalia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. doi: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1078344
Tsai C-Hi and Fordyce RE 2015. Ancestor–descendant relationships in evolution: origin of the extant pygmy right whale, Caperea marginata. Biol Lett. 2015 Jan; 11(1): 20140875.

wiki/Caperea
wiki/Desmostylus