Evolution of morphological disparity in pterosaurs

Prentice, Katherine C. and Ruta, Marcello and Benton, Michael J. (2011) Evolution of morphological disparity in pterosaurs. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 9 (3). pp. 337-353. ISSN 1477-2019

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14772019.2011.565081

Abstract

Pterosaurs were important flying vertebrates for most of the Mesozoic, from the Late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous
(225–65 Ma). They varied enormously through time in overall size (with wing spans from about 250 mm to about 12 m), and
in features of their cranial and postcranial skeletons. Comparisons of disparity based on discrete cladistic characters show
that the basal paraphyletic rhamphorhynchoids (Triassic–Early Cretaceous) occupied a distinct, and relatively small, region
of morphospace compared to the derived pterodactyloids (Late Jurassic–Late Cretaceous). This separation is unexpected,
especially in view of common constraints on anatomy caused by the requirements of flight. Pterodactyloid disparity shifted
through time, with different, small portions of morphospace occupied in the Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous, and a
much larger portion in the Early Cretaceous. This explosion in disparity after 100 Ma of evolution is matched by the
highest diversity of the clade: evidently, pterosaurs express a rather ‘top heavy’ clade shape, and this is reflected in delayed
morphological evolution, again an unexpected finding. The expansion of disparity among pterodactyloids was comparable
across subclades: pairwise comparisons among the four pterodactyloid superfamilies show that, for the most part, these
clades display significant morphological separation, except in the case of Dsungaripteroidea and Azhdarchoidea. Finally,
there is no evidence that rhamphorhynchoids as a whole were outcompeted by pterodactyloids, or that pterosaurs were driven
to extinction by the rise of birds.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:pterosaurs, disparity, diversity, rhamphorhynchoids, pterodactyloids, morphospace
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C191 Biometry
F Physical Sciences > F641 Palaeontology
C Biological Sciences > C181 Biodiversity
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:6286
Deposited By: Marcello Ruta
Deposited On:27 Sep 2012 14:18
Last Modified:04 Dec 2013 15:17

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