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1 April 2011 The Bipedal Stem Crocodilian Poposaurus gracilis: Inferring Function in Fossils and Innovation in Archosaur Locomotion
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Abstract
We introduce a spectacular new specimen of a Late Triassic stem crocodilian identified as Poposaurus gracilis. It is part of a poorly known group, Poposauroidea, that, because of its striking similarities with contemporaneous stem avians (“dinosaurs”), has long puzzled archosaur paleontologists. Observed vertebrate locomotor behaviors, together with exceptional preservation of distinctive anatomical clues in this fossil, enable us to examine locomotor evolution in light of new advances in phylogenetic relationships among Triassic archosaurs. Because this stem crocodilian is unambiguously an archosaur, a diapsid, a tetrapod and a choanate sarcopterygian, we can safely infer major components of its locomotor behavior. These inferences, together with form-function constraints, suggest that P. gracilis was a fleet-footed, obligately erect-postured, striding biped. That behavior seems to have been superimposed on the ancestral archosaur's innovative locomotor repertoire, which includes the capacity to “high walk.” These novelties persist in a recognizable form in archosaurs for at least 245 million years and are widely distributed across Earth's surface in diverse ecological settings. They thus qualify as evolutionary innovations regardless of significant differences in diversification rates among extant diapsid reptiles.
© 2011 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. All rights reserved.· http://www.peabody.yale.edu
Jacques A. Gauthier, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Emma R. Schachner, Gabe S. Bever and Walter G. Joyce "The Bipedal Stem Crocodilian Poposaurus gracilis: Inferring Function in Fossils and Innovation in Archosaur Locomotion," Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 52(1), (1 April 2011). https://doi.org/10.3374/014.052.0102
Received: 11 August 2010; Accepted: 1 January 2011; Published: 1 April 2011
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