Two New Temnospondyl Papers - Phylogeny of Major Clades and Suction Feeding in Gerrothorax

Schoch, R. R. 2013. The evolution of major temnospondyl clades: an inclusive phylogenetic analysis. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology DOI:10.1080/14772019.2012.699006

Abstract - Phylogenetic analysis of a large dataset (72 taxa, 212 characters) focuses on the in-group relationships of temnospondyls, the largest lower tetrapod clade. Representatives of all clades and grades were considered, spanning the entire stratigraphical range of temnospondyls from the Early Carboniferous through to the Early Cretaceous. Several major groups are defined phylogenetically (node or branch-based) rather than by apomorphies. The following groups were unequivocally found to be monophyletic: Edopoidea (node), Dvinosauria (stem, excl. Brachyopidae), Dissorophoidea (node), Eryopidae (stem), and Stereospondyli (node). The latter encompass three well-defined, branch-based taxa: Rhinesuchidae, Trematosauria and Capitosauria. Trematosauria (stem) contain Trematosauroidea (node), which includes the classic trematosaurids, metoposaurids, and possibly part of the rhytidosteids (Peltostega) but their in-group relationships remain unsettled; most other short-snouted stereospondyls (chigutisaurids, brachyopids, Laidleria and the plagiosaurids) are probably monophyletic and likely nest in some form with trematosauroids. Capitosauria (stem) include the Capitosauroidea (node) spanned by Parotosuchus and Mastodonsaurus, with the successive stem taxa Edingerella, Benthosuchus, Wetlugasaurus and Watsonisuchus. In all variant analyses, edopoids form the basalmost temnospondyl clade, followed by a potential clade (or grade) of small terrestrial taxa containing Balanerpeton and Dendrerpeton (‘Dendrerpetontidae’). All taxa higher than Edopoidea are suggested to form the monophyletic stem taxon Eutemnospondyli, tax. nov. The remainder of Temnospondyli fall into four robust and undisputed clades: (1) Dvinosauria; (2) Zatracheidae plus Dissorophoidea; (3) Eryopidae; and (4) Stereospondyli. These taxa are together referred to as Rhachitomi (node). Eryopidae and Stereospondylomorpha are probably monophyletic, here referred to as Eryopiformes (tax. nov.). The position of Dissorophoidea + Zatracheidae is still ambiguous; it may either form the sister taxon of Dvinosauria, or nest between Dvinosauria and Eryopiformes, whereas there is no support for Euskelia (Dissorophoidea + Eryopidae) after basal taxa of each clade are better understood.

Witzmann, F. and R. R. Schoch. 2012. Reconstruction of cranial and hyobranchial muscles in the Triassic temnospondyl Gerrothorax provides evidence for akinetic suction feeding. Journal of Morphology DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20113

Abstract - The cranial and hyobranchial muscles of the Triassic temnospondyl Gerrothorax have been reconstructed based on direct evidence (spatial limitations, ossified muscle insertion sites on skull, mandible, and hyobranchium) and on phylogenetic reasoning (with extant basal actinopterygians and caudates as bracketing taxa). The skeletal and soft-anatomical data allow the reconstruction of the feeding strike of this bottom-dwelling, aquatic temnospondyl. The orientation of the muscle scars on the postglenoid area of the mandible indicates that the depressor mandibulae was indeed used for lowering the mandible and not to raise the skull as supposed previously and implies that the skull including the mandible must have been lifted off the ground during prey capture. It can thus be assumed that Gerrothorax raised the head toward the prey with the jaws still closed. Analogous to the bracketing taxa, subsequent mouth opening was caused by action of the strong epaxial muscles (further elevation of the head) and the depressor mandibulae and rectus cervicis (lowering of the mandible). During mouth opening, the action of the rectus cervicis muscle also rotated the hyobranchial apparatus ventrally and caudally, thus expanding the buccal cavity and causing the inflow of water with the prey through the mouth opening. The strongly developed depressor mandibulae and rectus cervicis, and the well ossified, large quadrate-articular joint suggest that this action occurred rapidly and that powerful suction was generated. Also, the jaw adductors were well developed and enabled a rapid mouth closure. In contrast to extant caudate larvae and most extant actinopterygians (teleosts), no cranial kinesis was possible in the Gerrothorax skull, and therefore suction feeding was not as elaborate as in these extant forms. This reconstruction may guide future studies of feeding in extinct aquatic tetrapods with ossified hyobranchial apparatus.

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