Unique among synapsids, Euchambersia
(Broom 1931, Benoit et al. 2017; Fig. 1) had an antorbital fenestra (= maxillary fenestra and fossa, Fig. 1) that may have housed a venom gland posterior to the canine root.
Reported by Brian Switek in Scientific American online,
“Because of the uniqueness of its skull anatomy,” Benoit and coauthors conclude, “Euchambersia mirabilis is and will remain a puzzling species.”
The ability to be unique in a world of gradual accumulations of derived traits
made this taxon interesting. I wondered, which taxon did Euchambersia nest alongside? And did that taxon have anything like the antorbital fenestra found in Euchambersia?
The two answers are 1) Charassognathus and 2) yes.
Turns out Euchambersia was not unique among synapsids
for reasons stated above because its sister in the Therapsid Skull Tree (TST, 75 taxa) Charassognathus (Fig. 2) has a skull bulge posterior to the canine root.
According to Wikipedia, citing Botha, Abdala and Smith 2007
Charassognathus is a basal cynodont.
By contrast, in the TST, Charassognathus is a cynodont-mimic nesting with therocephalians. Given the state of taphonomy documented in Euchambersia, the possibility that the unique maxillary fenestra was in life covered by a thin bulge of bone, as in Charassognathus, should be considered a possibility.
“Charassognathus has a snout that makes up slightly less than half of the total length of its skull and a long facial process on its septomaxilla. Other than these two features its skull is that of a typical cynodont. The odd shape of its septomaxilla is more typical of therocephalians than other cynodonts indicating that it may be close to a common ancestor between the two groups.”
The same is true of Euchambersia.
According to Wikipedia, “Broom named the genus Euchambersia, which he considered “the most remarkable therocephalian ever discovered”, after the eminent Scottish publisher and evolutionary thinker Robert Chambers, whose Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was considered by Broom to be “a very remarkable work” though “sneered at by many.”
Chambers was probably happy to get the honor and compliment from Dr. Broom, while others sneered.
Benoit J, Norton LA, Manger PR and Rubidge BS 2017. Reappraisal of the envenoming capacity of Euchambersia mirabilis (Therapsida, Therocephalia) using μCT-scanning techniques. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0172047. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172047
Botha J, Abdala F and Smith R 2007. The oldest cynodont: new clues on the origin and diversification of the Cynodontia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 149: 477–492.
Broom R 1931. Notices of some new Genera and species of Karroo Fossil Reptiles. Rec Albany Mus. 1931; 41: 161–166.
It’s not often that all the references fall within the range of one letter. The odds against that are approximately one in 26 cubed or 17.576.