Skull Mechanics of Capitosaurs (Amphibia: Temnospondyli)

Fortuny, J., Marcé-Nogué, J., Gil, L. and Galobart, À. 2012. Skull Mechanics and the Evolutionary Patterns of the Otic Notch Closure in Capitosaurs (Amphibia: Temnospondyli). The Anatomical Record (advance online publication) doi: 10.1002/ar.22486

Abstract - Capitosaurs were among the largest amphibians that have ever lived. Their members displayed an amphibious lifestyle. We provide new information on functional morphology data, using finite element analysis (FEA) which has palaeoecological implications for the group. Our analyses included 17 taxa using (2D) plate models to test four loading cases (bilateral, unilateral and lateral bitings and skull raising system simulation). Our results demonstrates that, when feeding, capitosaurs concentrated the stress at the circumorbital region of the capitosaur skull and cranial sutures probably played a key role in dissipating and absorbing the stress generated during biting. Basal members (as Wetlugasaurus) were probably less specialized forms, while during Middle- and Late Triassic the group radiated into different ecomorphotypes with closed otic notch forms (as Cyclotosaurus) resulting in the strongest skulls during biting. Previous interpretations discussed a trend from an open to closed otic notch associated with lateral repositioning of the tabular horns, but the analysis of the skull-raising system reveals that taxa exhibiting posteriorly directed tabular horns display similar results during skull raising to those of closed otic notch taxa. Our results suggest that various constraints besides otic notch morphology, such as the elongation of the tabular horns, snout length, skull width and position, and size of the orbits affect the function of the skull. On the light of our results, capitosaur skull showed a trend to reduce the stresses and deformation during biting. Capitosaurs could be considered crocodilian analogues as they were top-level predators in fluvial and brackish Triassic ecosystems.

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