Douzhanopterus: Not the pterosaur they think it is + overlooked wing membranes.

A new paper by Wang et al. 2017
describes a ‘transitional’ pterosaur (Figs. 1,4) that was purported to link long-tail basal pterosaurs to short-tail derived pterosaurs (Fig. 2).

Unforunately this pterosaur does not do that.
No one single pterosaur can do that (see below, Fig. 3). But the new pterosaur is a new genus with a set of unique traits that nests at the base of the Pterodactylus clade, the Pterodactylidae, not the base of the so-called ‘Pterodactyloidea.’

Figure 1. Douzhanopterus at top in situ compared to scale with related pterosaurs, including Jianchangopterus, Ningchengopterus and the Painten pterosaur, all at the base of the Pterodactylidae.

Figure 1. Douzhanopterus (Wang et al. 2017) at top in situ compared to scale with related pterosaurs, including Jianchangopterus, Ningchengopterus and the Painten pterosaur, all nesting at the base of the Pterodactylidae.

Douzhanopterus zhengi (Wang et al. 2017; STM 19–35A & B; Late Jurassic, Fig. 1) originally nested (Fig. 2) between the Wukongopterids (Wukongopterus, Darwinopterus, Kunpengopterus.) and the Painten pterosaur (Fig. 1) and the rest of the purported clade Pterodactyloidea, beginning with Pterodactylus antiquus. Unfortunately, this is an antiquated matrix based on Wang et al. 2009 modified from Andres et al. 2014 with additional taxa. Unfortunately it includes far too few additional taxa and it produces an illogical cladogram in which clade members recovered by the large pterosaur tree (LPT) become separated from one another.

Figure 2. Basal portion of a cladogram provided by Liu et al. but colorized here to show the division of clades recovered in the LPT.

Figure 2. Basal portion of a cladogram provided by Wang et al. but colorized here to show the division of clades recovered in the LPT. Note that dorygnathids are basal to all derived cyan taxa and Scaphognathids are basal to all derived amber taxa.

As readers of this blogpost know
there was not one origin to the ‘Pterodactyloidea” clade, there were four origins to the pterodactyloid grade: two out of two Dorygnathus specimens and two out of small Scaphognathus descendants (subset of the LPT, Fig. 3). Once again, taxon exclusion is the problem in Wang et al. 2017. Too few taxa were included and many key taxa were ignored.

Should we get excited about the length of the tail
or the retention of an elongate pedal digit 5? No. These are common traits widely known in sister taxa and too often overlooked by pterosaur workers.

I understand the difficulties here.
Wang et al. saw no skull (but see below!) and the rest of the small skeleton is rather plesiomorphic, except for those long shins (tibiae). Even so, plugging in traits to the LPT reveals that Douzhanopterus is indeed a unique genus.

Figure 3. Subset of the LPT focusing on Pterodactylus with Douzhanopterus at its base.

Figure 3. Subset of the LPT focusing on Pterodactylus with Douzhanopterus at its base. Many of these taxa were not included in the Wang et al. 2017 study, but not the proximity of the Painten pterosaur, similar to the Wang et al study.

Here Douzhanopterus nests
in the LPT as a larger sister to Jianchangopterus (Lü and Bo 2011; Middle Jurassic; Fig. 1) at the base of the Pterodactylidae. These are just those few taxa closest to the holotype Pterodactylus and includes the Painten pterosaur, as in the Wang et al. study. Here that pterosaur was likewise demoted from the base of the Pterodactyloidea to the base of the Pterodactylidae.

Figure 4. Douzhanopterus in situ, original drawing and color tracing showing the overlooked soft tissue membranes and skull. Click to enlarge.

Figure 4. Douzhanopterus in situ, original drawing and color tracing showing the overlooked soft tissue membranes and skull. Click to enlarge.

Wang et al. overlooked
the skull and soft tissue membranes (Fig. 4) that are readily seen in the published in situ photo image. Click here to enlarge the image. These shapes confirm earlier findings (Peters 2002) in which the wing membranes had a narrow chord + fuselage fillet and were stretched between the elbow and wingtip, not the knee or ankle and wingtip. The uropatagia were also had narrow chords and were separated from one another, not connected to the tail or to each other, contra traditional interpretations.

DGS
This is what Digital Graphic Segregation is good for. I have not seen the specimen firsthand yet I have been able to recover subtle data overlooked by firsthand observation. The headline for this specimen should have been about the wing membranes, not the erroneous phylogenetic placement.

References:
Andres B, Clark J and Xu X 2014. The earliest pterodactyloid and the origin of the group. Curr. Biol. 24, 1011–1016.
Lü J and Bo X 2011. A New Rhamphorhynchid Pterosaur (Pterosauria) from the Middle Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation of Western Liaoning, China. Acta Geologica Sinica 85(5): 977–983.
Peters D 2002.  A New Model for the Evolution of the Pterosaur Wing – with a twist.  Historical Biology 15: 277–301.
Wang X.Kellner AWA, Jiang S and  Meng X 2009. An unusual long-tailed pterosaur with elongated neck from western Liaoning of China. An. Acad. Bras. Cienc. 81, 793–812.
Wang et al. 2017. New evidence from China for the nature of the pterosaur evolutionary transition. Nature Scientific Reports 7, 42763; doi: 10.1038/srep42763

wiki/Jianchangopterus
wiki/Ningchengopterus
wiki/Douzhanopterus (not yet posted)

Eocaecilia and Brachydectes: old mistakes and new insights

Updated February 9, 13 and 17, 2017 with more taxa added to the LRT and revisions to the skull bone identification.

Earlier we looked at the long-bodied
basal tetrapod sisters, Eocaecilia (Fig. 1) and Brachydectes (Fig 2). Adding new closely related taxa, like Adelogyrinus (Fig. 3) to the large reptile tree (LRT, 945 taxa, Fig. 5) illuminates several prior mistakes in bone identification and moves the long-bodied Microbrachis (Fig. 4) to the base of the extant caecilian clade. Here are the corrected images.

Figure 1. Eocaecilia skull with original and new bone identifications based on comparisons to sister taxa listed here. Like Brachydectes, the jaw joint has moved forward, beneath the jugal now fused to the quadratojugal creating a long retroarticular process, otherwise rare in amphibians. Also rare is the fusion of the squamosal with the postorbital.

Figure 1. Eocaecilia skull with original and new bone identifications based on comparisons to sister taxa listed here. Like Brachydectes, the jaw joint has moved forward, beneath the jugal now fused to the quadratojugal creating a long retroarticular process, otherwise rare in amphibians. Also rare is the fusion of the squamosal with the postorbital.

Eocaecilia micropodia
(Jenkins and Walsh 1993; Early Jurassic ~190 mya, ~8 cm in length) was derived from a sister to Adelospondylus and phylogenetically preceded modern caecilians. Originally the supratemporal was tentatively labeled a tabular and the postorbital was originally labeled a squamosal. The lacrimal and maxilla are coosified as are the ectopterygoid and palatine. The squamosal and quadratojugal are absent.

Unlike Eocaecilia,
extant caecilians do not have limbs. The tail is short or absent. The eyes are reduced and the skin has annular rings. More skull bones fuse together. A pair of tentacles between the eye and nostril appear to be used for chemical sensations (smelling). Some caecilians grow to 1.5 m in length.

Figure 2. The skull of Brachydectes revised. Like Eocaecilia, the squamosal and quadratojugal are missing.

Figure 2. The skull of Brachydectes revised. Like Eocaecilia, the squamosal and quadratojugal are missing.

Brachydectes newberryi
(Wellstead 1991; Latest Carboniferous) Similar in body length to EocaeceliaBrachydectes (Carboniferous, 43 cm long) was a lysorophian amphibian with a very small skull and vestigial limbs. The skull has a large orbit. Like its current sister, Eocaecilia (Fig. 1), Brachydectes lacked a squamosall and quadratojugal. The mandible was shorter than the skull. Brachydectes had up to 99 presacral vertebrae. Earlier I made the mistake of thinking this was a burrowing animal with tiny eyes close to the lacrimal. As in unrelated baphetids, the orbit is much larger in Brachydectes than the eyeball, even when the eyeball is enlarged as shown above.

Figure 3. Adelogyrinus skull. This less derived taxa provides clues to the identification of the bones in the skulls of Eocaecili and Brachydectes.

Figure 3. Adelogyrinus skull. This less derived taxa provides clues to the identification of the bones in the skulls of Eocaecili and Brachydectes.

Adelogyrinus simorhynchus
(Watson 1929; Viséan, Early Carboniferous, 340 mya) had a shorter, fish-like snout and longer cranium. Note the loss of the otic notch and the posterior displacement of the tiny postorbital.

Dolichopareias disjectus 
(Watson 1929; 1889, 101, 17 Royal Scottish Museum) helps one understand the fusion patterns in Adelospondylus and Adelogyrinus (Fig. 3).

Figure 4. Microbrachis slightly revised with a new indented supratemporal here rotated to the lateral side of the skull above the squamosal and quadratojugal. Otherwise this image is from Carroll, who did not indent the supratemporal.

Figure 4. Microbrachis slightly revised with a new indented supratemporal here rotated to the lateral side of the skull above the squamosal and quadratojugal. Otherwise this image is from Carroll, who did not indent the supratemporal.

Figure 5. Microbrachis skull in several views. Note the freehand reconstruction offered by Vallin and Laurin 2008 (ghosted beneath) does not match the shapes traced from the in situ drawing also presented by them. This is the source of the supratemporal indent in figure 4.

Figure 5. Microbrachis skull in several views. Note the freehand reconstruction offered by Vallin and Laurin 2008 (ghosted beneath) does not match the shapes traced from the in situ drawing also presented by them. This is the source of the supratemporal indent in figure 4.

Microbrachis
(Fritsch 1875) Middle Pennsylvanian, Late Carboniferous ~300 mya, ~15 cm in length, is THE holotype microsaur, which makes all of its descendants microsaurs. So extant caecilians are microsaurs, another clade that is no longer extinct.

Figure 6. Subset of the large reptile tree focusing on basal tetrapods, updated with Gerrothorax.Figure 6. Subset of the large reptile tree focusing on basal tetrapods, updated with Gerrothorax.

Figure 6. Subset of the large reptile tree focusing on basal tetrapods, updated with Gerrothorax.

Thank you for your patience
to those awaiting replies to their comments. It took awhile to clean up this portion of the LRT with reference to better data and new sisters. I should be able to attend to those comments shortly.

References
Brough MC and Brough J 1967. Studies on early tetrapods. II.  Microbrachis, the type microsaur. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 252B:107-165.
Carroll RL 1967. An Adelogyrinid Lepospondyl Amphibian from the Upper Carboniferous: Canadian Journal of Zoology 45(1):1-16.
Carroll RL and Gaskill P 1978. The order Microsauria. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 211 pp.
Fritsch A 1875. Fauna der Gaskohle des Pilsener und Rakonitzer Beckens. Sitzungsberichte der königliche böhmischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften in Prag. Jahrgang 70–79.
Jenkins FA and Walsh M 1993. An Early Jurassic caecilian with limbs. Nature 365: 246–250.
Jenkins FA, Walsh DM and Carroll RL 2007. Anatomy of Eocaecilia micropodia, a limbed caecilian of the Early Jurassic. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 158(6): 285-366.
Vallin G and Laurin M 2004. Cranial morphology and affinities of Microbrachis, and a reappraisal of the phylogeny and lifestyle of the first amphibians. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology: Vol. 24 (1): 56-72 online pdf
Watson DMS 1929. The Carboniferous Amphibia of Scotland. Palaeontologia Hungarica 1:223-252
Wellstead C F 1991
. Taxonomic revision of the Lysorophia, Permo-Carboniferous lepospondyl amphibians. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 209: 1–90.

wiki/Adelospondylus
wiki/Adelogyrinus
wiki/Dolichopareias
wiki/Eocaecilia
wiki/Brachydectes
wiki/Microbrachis

Pederpes gets the DGS treatment

The first known basal tetrapod with a five-toed pes is
Pederpes finneyae (Clack 2002; Tournasian, early Carboniferous, 348mya; 1m in est. length) and it is known from a fairly complete articulated skeleton. In an attempt to reconstruct the skull I have colored elements (Fig. 1) and moved those tracings to a reconstruction (Fig. 2) in which some of the broken loose pieces have been replaced to their in vivo positions.

Figure 1. Pederpes in situ with elements colorized. See figure 2 for a reconstruction.

Figure 1. Pederpes in situ with elements colorized. See figure 2 for a reconstruction.

The lacrimal, maxilla and jugal
have broken parts that fit together like puzzle pieces.

Figure 2. Pederpes skull elements returned to their in vivo positions.

Figure 2. Pederpes skull elements returned to their in vivo positions. Compare to figure 1. Skull roof is shown rotated to the picture plane, but in life would have been flat and seen edge-on. Yellow bone behind skull is a stapes.

In the large reptile tree
Pederpes nests between Ichthyostega and Whatcheeria + Crassigyrinus.

References
Clack JA 2002. An early tetrapod from ‘Romer’s Gap’. Nature. 418 (6893): 72–76.

Another look at Ichthyostega

Perhaps the borders
of the skull bones in Ichthyostega need to be revisited. Sure the cracks and sutures are hard to figure out. And there may be mistakes here. But this is the way I see it for now, subject to future changes.

Figure 1. DGS applied to the skull of Ichthyostega (left). Compare to the original interpretation (right).

Figure 1. DGS applied to the skull of Ichthyostega (left). Compare to the original interpretation (right). Note the left premaxilla and maxilla are separated from the rest of the skull. And note the slight indentation of the sides at left that is not shown at right. Earlier, more basal taxa do not connect the lacrimal to the orbit. 

Short one today.
Meanwhile, adding taxa to the large reptile tree this weekend and correcting errors like those shown above as they come to my attention. More changes tomorrow.

A juvenile Anteosaurus? No.

Kruger et al. 2017
reported on a newly discovered ‘juvenile Anteosaurus skull BP/1/7074 (Figs. 1,2). This was also the subject of Kruger’s 2014 Masters thesis.

Unfortunately
in the therapsid skull tree, BP/1/7074 did not nest with Anteosaurus, but with Austraolosyodon (Figs. 1,2). Neither Kruger nor Kruger et al. presented a phylogenetic analysis.

So let’s talk about
this discrepancy and the importance of phylogenetic analysis. We’re long past the age of ‘eyeballing’ taxa.

Figure 1. The purported juvenile Anteosaurus skull, BP/1/7074 compared to he coeval Australosyodon.

Figure 1. The purported juvenile Anteosaurus skull, BP/1/7074 compared to he coeval Australosyodon. DGS colors have been applied to the bones of BP/1/7074.

From the 2017 abstract
“A newly discovered skull of Anteosaurus magnificus from the Abrahamskraal Formation is unique among specimens of this taxon in having most of the individual cranial bones disarticulated, permitting accurate delimitation of cranial sutures for the first time. The relatively large orbits and unfused nature of the cranial sutures suggest juvenile status for the specimen. Positive allometry for four of the measurements suggests rapid growth in the temporal region, and a significant difference in the development of the postorbital bar and suborbital bar between juveniles and adults. Pachyostosis was an important process in the cranial ontogeny of Anteosaurus, significantly modifying the skull roof of adults.”

Without a phylogenetic analysis,
it is not wise to assume you have a juvenile of any taxon, especially if you describe it as unlike the adult due to allometry when allometric growth has not been shown in related taxa. All of what Kruger et al. said about pachyostosis may be true, but it awaits a real juvenile Anteosaurus skull to present as evidence. Kruger et al. cited these:

Kammerer et al. 2011 reported that that Stenocybus acidentatus (IGCAGS V 361, Middle Permian, Cheng and Li 1997) is a juvenile Sinophoneus. Phylogenetic analysis nested that smaller skull lower on the therapsid tree.

Liu et al. 2013 thought they had found several short-faced juvenile Sinophoneus skulls. Phylogenetic analysis nested those smaller skulls lower on the the therapsid tree.

Figure 2. Kruger et al. 2017 figure 21. provided "Ontogenetic changes in the skull of Anteosaurus; A. juvenile; B, intermediate sized; C, adult sized, redrawn from Kammerer 2011. Their figure 20 labeled the intermediate sized skull as Titanophoneus. So this is a phylogenetic series, not an ontogenetic one.

Figure 2. Kruger et al. 2017 figure 21. provided “Ontogenetic changes in the skull of Anteosaurus; A. juvenile; B, intermediate sized; C, adult sized, redrawn from Kammerer 2011. Their figure 20 labeled the intermediate sized skull as Titanophoneus. So this is a phylogenetic series, not an ontogenetic one.

 

Misdirection
In Kruger et al. 2017 their figure 21 provided “Ontogenetic changes in the skull of Anteosaurus; A. juvenile; B, intermediate sized; C, adult sized, redrawn from Kammerer 2011” (skulls with colored bones in Fig. 2). However, their figure 20 labeled the intermediate sized skull as Titanophoneus (redrawn from Kammerer 2011), even though it is not a close match to the real Titanophoneus (Fig. 2). So they presented a phylogenetic series, not an ontogenetic one. That intermediate skull is not Anteosaurus and neither is the juvenile.

Given the choice of describing
the first known Anteosaurus juvenile skull or just another Australosyodon skull, Kruger 2014 and Kruger et al. 2017 opted for the former.

Figure 3. From Kruger 2014 the parts of BP/1/7074 colorized to show how the bones were 'disarticulated.' This is not disarticulation. This is breakage.

Figure 3. From Kruger et al. 2017 the parts of BP/1/7074 colorized to show how the bones were ‘disarticulated.’ This is not disarticulation. This is disassembly of articulated bones.

More misdirection
The abstract describes the bones as ‘unfused’ and therefore juvenile. However the bones did not come out of the ground separate from one another (Fig. 3) and the bones of Syodon are also unfused as an adult. If the bones are indeed juvenile, then they are related to Australosyodon and Syodon, not Anteosaurus.

Statistics, graphs, CT scans and all the high tech data in the world
won’t help you if you don’t have a phylogenetic analysis as your bedrock. You have to know what you have before you can describe it professionally.

From the conclusion
“The ontogenetic series of Anteosaurus magnifies is represented by skull lengths varying from 280 to 805 mm. The most important morphological modifications of the skull are the development of pachyostosis, the positive allometries of the temporal opening, and the postorbital and suborbital bars, which become increasingly robust in adults (Fig. 21). The anterior portion of the snout also grew relatively faster. Adults show proportionally smaller orbits and an increase in the angle between the nasal and the frontal. On the skull roof, the pineal boss increases in height and there is a greater degree of pachyostosis around it. The cranial morphology of juvenile Anteosaurus appears broadly similar to that of the Russian Syodon.”

From the Kruger thesis
“Only two genera of anteosaurs, Australosyodon and Anteosaurus, are recognised from the Karoo rocks of South Africa.” Once again, phylogenetic analysis brings us to a different conclusion. We have to put away our assumptions until the analysis is complete.

We’ve seen before
how the lack of a rigorous large gamut phylogenetic analysis can affect conclusions.

  1. Liu et al 2013 and Kammerer2011 (listed above) eyeballed their purported juveniles without a large gamut analysis.
  2. Several of Bennett’s papers (listed below) on Pteranodon, Rhamphorhynchus, Pterodactylus and Germanodactylus concluded that specimens were varied due to gender or ontogeny, without testing them phylogenetically.
  3. Hone and Benton 2007, 2009 deleted key taxa, introduced typos into the dataset and switched citations to support their contention that pterosaurs were related to erythrosuchid archosauriforms and Cosesaurus was close to Proterosuchus among many other foibles.
  4. Ezcurra and Butler 2015 lumped several Proterosuchus/Chasmatosaurus specimens together in an ontogenetic series without testing them phylogenetically.
  5. I’m leaving out the many small gamut phylogenetic analyses that suffered from taxon exclusion or inappropriate taxon inclusion that messed up results. Use keyword: ‘taxon exclusion‘ to locate them in this blog.

References
Bennett SC 1991. Morphology of the Late Cretaceous Pterosaur Pteranodon and Systematics of the Pterodactyloidea. [Volumes I & II]. Ph.D. thesis, University of Kansas, University Microfilms International/ProQuest.
Bennett SC 1992. 
Sexual dimorphism of Pteranodon and other pterosaurs, with comments on cranial crests. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 12: 422–434.
Bennett SC 1994.
 Taxonomy and systematics of the Late Cretaceous pterosaur Pteranodon (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea). Occassional Papers of the Natural History Museum University of Kansas 169: 1–70.
Bennett SC 2001. 
The osteology and functional morphology of the Late Cretaceous pterosaur Pteranodon. Part I. General description of osteology. Palaeontographica, Abteilung A, 260: 1–112. Part II. Functional morphology. Palaeontographica, Abteilung A, 260: 113–153
Bennett SC 1995. 
A statistical study of Rhamphorhynchus from the Solnhofen limestone of Germany: year classes of a single large species. Journal of Paleontology 69, 569–580.
Bennett  SC (2012) [2013
] New information on body size and cranial display structures of Pterodactylus antiquus, with a revision of the genus. Paläontologische Zeitschrift (advance online publication) doi: 10.1007/s12542-012-0159-8
Ezcurra MD and Butler RJ 2015. Post-hatchling cranial ontogeny in the Early Triassic diapsid reptile Proterosuchus fergusi. Journal of Anatomy. Article first published online: 24 APR 2015. DOI: 10.1111/joa.12300
Kammerer CF 2011. Systematics of the Anteosauria (Therapsida: Dinocephalia). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 9: 2, 261—304, First published on: 13 December 2010 (iFirst) To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2010.492645\
Liu J 2013. 
Osteology, ontogeny, and phylogenetic position of Sinophoneus yumenensis(Therapsida, Dinocephalia) from the Middle Permian Dashankou Fauna of China, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 33:6, 1394-1407, DOI:10.1080/02724634.2013.781505
Kruger A 2014. Ontogeny and cranial morphology of the basal carnivorous dinocephalian, Anteosaurus magnifies from the Tapinocephalus assemblage zone of the South African Karoo. Masters dissertation, University of Wiwatersand, Johannesburg.
Kruger A, Rubidge BS and Abdala F 2017. A juvenile specimen of Anteosaurus magnifies Watson, 1921 (Therapsida: Dinocephalia) from the South African Karoo, and its implications for understanding dinocephalian ontogeny. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14772019.2016.1276106
Rubidge BS1994. Australosyodon, the first primitive anteosaurid dinocephalian from the Upper Permian of Gondwana. Palaeontology, 37: 579–594.

Dendrerpeton gets the DGS treatment

Figure 1. GIF movie of Dendrepeton fossil in situ showing original interpretation with intertemporal and contact of the prefrontal and postfrontal. Below: DGS tracing and new interpretation without the intertemporal and prefrontal/postfrontal contact.

Figure 1. GIF movie of Dendrepeton fossil in situ showing original interpretation with intertemporal and contact of the prefrontal and postfrontal. Below: DGS tracing and new interpretation without the intertemporal and prefrontal/postfrontal contact. Fossil images from Holmes et al. 1998.

Dendrerpeton acadianum (Owen 1853; Holmes, Carroll and Reisz 1998; Bashkirian, Carboniferous ~318 mya; ~10 cm in length; YPM VP 005895, BMNH R4158, RM 2.1121) was derived from a sister to Amphibamus and phylogenetically preceded Acheloma and Cacops in the large reptile tree (LRT).

Schoch and Miller 2014 considered this specimen conspecific with Dendrysekos helogenes (Steen 1934).

Figure 2. Dendrerpeton without raised orbits from Holmes et al. 1998.

Figure 2. Dendrerpeton without raised orbits from Holmes et al. 1998. These authors had firsthand access to the specimen, yet missed several details revealed by second hand access to published photos.

Overall larger than Amphibamus, 
the skull of Dendrerpeton was narrower, the rostrum longer, the nares more widely separated. The skull bones were highly sculptured.

Distinct from earlier interpretations
by Holmes, et al. 1998 (Figs. 1,2), the orbit of Dendrerpeton was raised above the skull roof, the prefrontal did not contact the postfrontal, the palatine was exposed laterally and the intertemporal was not present. These authors had firsthand access to the specimen, yet missed several details revealed by second hand access to published photos. DGS reveals where the puzzle pieces are simply by coloring them to segregate them, and trying the puzzle pieces until they fit.

At present these traits
nest Dendrerpeton close to Tersomius (Fig. 3) within the Lepospondyli.

Figure 3. Tersomius texensis, an amphibamid lepospondyl close to Dendrerpeton.

Figure 3. Tersomius texensis, an amphibamid lepospondyl close to Dendrerpeton. DGS colors have been applied over several bones.

References
Case EC 1910. New or little known reptiles and amphibians from thePermian (?) of Texas. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 28, 163–181.
Holmes RB, Carroll RL and Reisz RR 1998. The first articulated skeleton of Dendrerpeton acadianum (Temnospondyli, Dendrerpetontidae) from the lower Pennsylvanian locality of Joggins, Nova Scotia, and a review of its relationships. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 18:64-79.
Maddin H, Fröbisch NB, Evans DC and Milner AR 2013. Reappraisal of the Early Permian amphibamid Tersomius texensis and some referred material. Comptes Rendus Palevol 12:447-461.
Moodie RL 1916. Journal of The coal measures Amphibia of North America. Carnegie Institution of Washington #238. 222 pp.
Owen R 1853. Notes on the above-described fossil remains. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 9:66-67
Schoch RR and Milner AR 2014. Temnospondyli I. Part 3A2 of Sues H-D, ed. Handbook of 6468 Paleoherpetology. Munich: Dr. Friedrich Pfeil.
Steen MC 1934. The amphibian fauna from the South Joggins, Nova Scotia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1934:465-504.
Wyman J 1857. On a batrachian reptile from the coal formation. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 10th Meeting, 172-173.

wiki/Dendrerpeton
wiki/Tersomius

 

Wrist supination/pronation in Megalancosaurus?

Megalancosaurus including the palate, the only palate ever figured for a drepanosaur.

Figure 8. Megalancosaurus including the palate, the only palate ever figured for a drepanosaur.

One of the weirdest of the weird
Megalancosaurus has been studied and published previously (see refs below). A recent addition (Castiello et al. 2016) adds fused clavicles, a saddle-shaped glenoid, a tight connection between the radius and ulna that hindered pronation/suppination (but see below) and hypothetical forelimb muscles to our knowledge of this basal lepidosauriform.

Unfortunately 
the authors only go as far as labeling this taxon a drepanosaur and a drepanosauromorph without further identifying the larger and even larger clades these taxa nest within.

News

  1. “unlike those of other drepanosauromorphs [the clavicles] are fused together and possess a small median process caudally directed so that the whole structure looks similar to the furcula of theropod dinosaurs, especially oviraptorids.”
  2. “The scapular blade reaches the modified, expanded neural spines of the third and fourth dorsal vertebra so that the pectoral girdle formed a solid ring, which would have been very rigid.”
  3. “the glenoid fossa has a saddle-shaped structure and lies on the coracoid”
  4. “paired sternal plates are fused to the coracoids forming a craniocaudally elongate coracosternal complex.”
  5. “the coracosternal complex was more vertically oriented than in previous reconstructions” but as figured for Drepanosaurus and Megalancosaurus (Fig. 1) at ReptileEvolution.com.
  6. Rather than a separate olecranon sesamoid (Figs. 1, 2) that Megalancosaurus and all of its sisters share, the authors report on, “the elongate olecranon process of the ulna.”
  7. Rather than recognizing a bone break in the ulna (Fig. 2), the authors report, “a small notch is present on the medial margin of the ulna distal to the articular surface for the humerus. This notch houses the medial corner of the proximal head of the radius, suggesting that in life, the two bones were firmly connected together at their proximal end, preventing pronation and supination of the forearm.” No other sister taxa or tetrapods have such an ulna notch. Note, the notch is not present in figure 2, but the sesamoid is pretty broken up. These bones are hollow, fragile and crushed. Be careful how you interpret them. Earlier we saw another misinterpretation of a drepanosaur forelimb.
  8. When the authors present a hypothetical forelimb myology they do not present a pertinent actual forelimb myology (Fig. 3) for comparison. Such a comparison helps assure the reader that the myology for Megalancosaurus has not been invented and follows actual patterns and sizes.
Megalacosaurus elbow

Figure x. The break and the broken pieces of the Megalancosaurus ulna are reidentified here. The sesamoid is prominent and crescent-shaped as in Drepanosaurus.

Crushed hollow bones
are sometimes difficult to interpret, as we’ve seen before.

Elbow sesamoid in another specimen of Megalancosaurus, MPUM 8437.

Figure 2. Elbow sesamoid in another specimen of Megalancosaurus, MPUM 8437.

The authors provided a hypothetical myology
which they phylogenetically bracketed by lepidosaurs and crocodilians (which means what??) based on prior pterosaur forelimb myology as imagined by Bennett (2003, 2008). Pterosaurs are unrelated to drepanosaurs. The Bennett pterosaur myology had problems because it located extensors and flexors anterior and posterior to the fore arm, rather than dorsal and ventral (palmar) as in Sphenodon (Fig. 3) the closest living taxon to drepanosaurs AND pterosaurs.

Sphenodon hand muscles

Figure 3 Sphenodon hand muscles. Click to enlarge. These were not referenced in the Castiello et al. study.

It would have been appropriate

  1. to show that the fingers of Megalancosaurus had more phalanges (Fig. 4), as seen in sister taxa and as I see them in Megalancosaurus itself.
  2. to show two versions of the manus, with spread metacarpals (as presented) and another with more closely appressed metacarpals, as in sister taxa, Hypuronector, Vallesaurus, and Drepanosaurus (Fig. 4).
  3. to take a closer look at that ulna notch, knowing that such a notch mechanically weakens the cylinder, is produced by broken bone, and is not repeated in other drepanosaurs.
  4. to take a closer look at that olecranon ‘process’ because sister taxa all have a large sesamoid.
  5. to phylogenetically nest drepanosaurs in order to provide the most accurate myology analogy possible.
The sister taxa of Drepanosaurus

Figure 4. Click to enlarge. The sister taxa of Drepanosaurus all had an olecranon sesamoid. Drepanosaurus simply had a larger one.

The above data
has been online for the past six years. Plenty of time to consider it. No need to cite it.

Pronation/supination
Arboreal taxa in general and distant drepanosauromroph sisters (Palaegama and Jesairosaurus) are able to axially rotate the forearm by at least some degree. Like the human forearm, the radius and ulna in these taxa are separated by a long oval space that enables the radius to axially rotate on the ulna.

By contrast 
the radius and ulna of Hypuronector are appressed (Fig. 4), restricting pronation/ supination. Vallesaurus may have been similar, but taphonomic disarticulation makes it difficult to tell. The forearm was relatively shorter than the humerus. Drepanosaurus had a similar short forearm, but also had a giant elbow sesamoid that essentially extended the humerus, separated the proximal radius and ulna, as in birds, but shifted the radius to the sesamoid, deleting the parallelogram effect — AND likely reducing pronation and supination.

Unlike its sisters, but like humans,
the radius and ulna of Megalancosaurus were slender, elongate and separated by an interosseus space. I don’t see any reason to suggest that pronation and supination were restricted to 0º here, but not nearly to the extent found in humans (Homo), about 180º. The radius in Megalancosaurus still appears to articulate with the humerus and if re-inflated from its crushed state, might be a cylinder with a circular proximal articulation, enabling pronation and supination.

References
Bennett SC 2003. Morphological evolution of the pectoral girdle of pterosaurs: myology and function. In: Buffetaut E, Mazin J-M, editors. Evolution and palaeobiology of pterosaurs. Geol Soc Spec Publ. 217. London (UK): Geological Society of London. p. 191–215.
Bennett SC 2008. Morphological evolution of the forelimb of pterosaurs: myology and function. In: Buffetaut E, Hone DWE, editors. Flugsaurier: pterosaur papers in honour of Peter Wellnhofer. München: Zitteliana. B28. p. 127–141.
Calzavara M, Muscio G and Wild R 1980. Megalancosaurus preonensis n. gen. n. sp., a new reptile from the Norian of Friuli. Gortania 2: 59-64.
Castiello M, Renesto S and Bennett SC 2016. The role of the forelimb in prey capture in the Late Triassic reptile Megalancosaurus (Diapsida, Drepanosauromorpha). Historical Biology DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2015.1107552
Feduccia A and Wild R 1993. Birdlike characters in the Triassic archosaur Megalancosaurus. Natur Wissenschaften 80:564–566.
Geist NR and Feduccia A 2000. Gravity-defying Behaviors: Identifying Models for Protoaves. American Zoologist 4):664-675. online pdf
Renesto S 1994. Megalancosaurus, a possibly arboreal archosauromorph (Reptilia) from the Upper Triassic of Northern Italy. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 14(1):38-52.
Renesto S 2000. Bird-like head on a chameleon body: new specimens of the enigmatic diapsid reptile Megalancosaurus from the Late Triassic of Northern Italy. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 106: 157–179.

wiki/Megalancosaurus