Feeding-Related Characters in Basal Pterosaurs

Osi, A. 2010: Feeding-related characters in basal pterosaurs: implications for jaw mechanism, dental function and diet. Lethaia, DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2010.00230.x.

Abstract - A comparative study of various feeding-related features in basal pterosaurs reveals a significant change in feeding strategies during the early evolutionary history of the group. These features are related to the skull architecture (e.g. quadrate morphology and orientation, jaw joint), dentition (e.g. crown morphology, wear patterns), reconstructed adductor musculature and post-cranium. The most basal pterosaurs (Preondactylus, dimorphodontids and anurognathids) were small-bodied animals with a wingspan no greater than 1.5 m, a relatively short, lightly constructed skull, straight mandibles with a large gape, sharply pointed teeth and well-developed external adductors. The absence of extended tooth wear excludes complex oral food processing and indicates that jaw closure was simply orthal. Features of these basal-most forms indicate a predominantly insectivorous diet. Among stratigraphically older but more derived forms (Eudimorphodon, Carniadactylus, Caviramus) complex, multicuspid teeth allowed the consumption of a wider variety of prey via a more effective form of food processing. This is supported by heavy dental wear in all forms with multicuspid teeth. Typical piscivorous forms occurred no earlier than the Early Jurassic, and are characterized by widely spaced, enlarged procumbent teeth forming a fish grab and an anteriorly inclined quadrate that permitted only a relatively small gape. In addition, the skull became more elongate and body size increased. Besides the dominance of piscivory, dental morphology and the scarcity of tooth wear reflect accidental dental occlusion that could have been caused by the capturing or seasonal consumption of harder food items.

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