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Article: Functional and evolutionary aspects of the postcranial anatomy of dicynodonts (Synapsida, Therapsida)

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 49
Part: 6
Publication Date: November 2006
Page(s): 1263 1286
Author(s): Sanghamitra Ray
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RAY, S. 2006. Functional and evolutionary aspects of the postcranial anatomy of dicynodonts (Synapsida, Therapsida). Palaeontology49, 6, 1263–1286.

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Restoration of the major skeletal muscles and functional morphological analysis of the postcranium were carried out on two Triassic dicynodont genera, Wadiasaurus and Lystrosaurus. A phylogenetic analysis of 12 selected Permian and Triassic dicynodont taxa was conducted and the postcranial character states were then mapped onto the most parsimonious tree. The analysis revealed changes in pectoral girdle and forelimb morphology, which included reduction of the coracoid plate, increasing robustness of the deltopectoral crest, change in humeral orientation from lateral to caudolateral, increasing prominence of the humeral head, and increasing robustness of the radius. Such changes can be associated with a functional tendency to reduce the lateral component of the propulsive force while still in an abducted mode. On the other hand, changes associated with the pelvic girdle included expansion of the preacetabular iliac process, reduction of the postacetabular iliac process, craniocaudal expansion of the iliac blade, change in the shape of the pubis from flat and plate-like to small and rod-like with a cranial process, and change in acetabular orientation from lateral to caudolateral. The femoral head, starting from a cranioproximal position, progressively became dorsally pronounced and offset from the body. Other features/changes associated with the femur included increasing robustness of the trochanter major, and increasing flattening of the femoral midshaft. Changes in the axial skeleton included increasing stiffening of the trunk to reduce lateral undulations, increasing dorsoventral flexion, and increasing sacral vertebral count, which can be correlated with the preacetabular iliac expansion. These findings suggest that the dicynodont postcranial skeleton evolved towards more upright hindlimb morphology with the body held well off the ground.
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