Article: Geometric morphometrics of the skull roof of stereospondyls (Amphibia: Temnospondyli)
Geometric morphometric analysis using relative warps is applied to the skull roof of 62 species of stereospondyls and their closest outgroups (i.e. basal archegosauriforms) from among temnospondyl amphibians. Twenty-one landmarks and five taxonomic groups are used for comparisons. Their skull evolution is quantified in a morphospace defined by two relative warps axes. The majority of groups show poor concordance between morphological and phylogenetic distances. The only exception is represented by Yates and Warren's study of stereospondyl relationships, in which concordance is high. Only basal archegosauriforms and rhinesuchids show significant overlap in morphospace, although this might be due to low sample sizes. Regression of estimated mean disparity against taxon sample size shows that species within both the trematosauroid and the rhytidostean groups are more widely dispersed in morphospace than species belonging to any of the remaining stereospondyl groups. Stereospondyl skull evolution was characterized by divergence between major clades and convergence within those clades. Changes in patterns of morphospace occupation through time agree with the hypothesis of an 'explosive' radiation in the early Early Triassic, after the extinction of basal archegosauriforms at the end of the Permian.