Project

Jehol Biota

Goal: On the macro-evolution and bio-diversity of major vertebrates in Yanliao-Jehol Biota

Updates
0 new
0
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
82
Reads
1 new
582

Project log

Luis M. Chiappe
added a research item
The avian tail played a critical role in the evolutionary transition from long- to short-tailed birds, yet its ontogeny in extant birds has largely been ignored. This deficit has hampered efforts to effectively identify intermediate species during the Mesozoic transition to short tails. Here we show that fusion of distal vertebrae into the pygostyle structure does not occur in extant birds until near skeletal maturity, and mineralization of vertebral processes also occurs long after hatching. Evidence for post-hatching pygostyle formation is also demonstrated in two Cretaceous specimens, a juvenile enantiornithine and a subadult basal ornithuromorph. These findings call for reinterpretations of Zhongornis haoae, a Cretaceous bird hypothesized to be an intermediate in the long- to short-tailed bird transition, and of the recently discovered coelurosaur tail embedded in amber. Zhongornis, as a juvenile, may not yet have formed a pygostyle, and the amber-embedded tail specimen is reinterpreted as possibly avian. Analyses of relative pygostyle lengths in extant and Cretaceous birds suggests the number of vertebrae incorporated into the pygostyle has varied considerably, further complicating the interpretation of potential transitional species. In addition, this analysis of avian tail development reveals the generation and loss of intervertebral discs in the pygostyle, vertebral bodies derived from different kinds of cartilage, and alternative modes of caudal vertebral process morphogenesis in birds. These findings demonstrate that avian tail ontogeny is a crucial parameter specifically for the interpretation of Mesozoic specimens, and generally for insights into vertebrae formation.
Zhe-Xi Luo
added 2 research items
A fossil mammal from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation, Colorado, has highly specialized teeth similar to those of xenarthran and tubulidentate placental mammals and different from the generalized insectivorous or omnivorous dentitions of other Jurassic mammals. It has many forelimb features specialized for digging, and its lumbar vertebrae show xenarthrous articulations. Parsimony analysis suggests that this fossil represents a separate basal mammalian lineage with some dental and vertebral convergences to those of modern xenarthran placentals, and reveals a previously unknown ecomorph of early mammals.
Zhe-Xi Luo
added 2 research items
A new partial skeleton of the Cretaceous “symmetrodontan” mammal Zhangheotherium quinquecuspedens from the Yixian Formation of Liaoning, China has shed light on the dental and skeletal features of this taxon. The new fossil is a juvenile individual of late growth stage, preserved with interesting features of the premolar replacement. This fossil also provides new information on the vertebral column, the pelvis, the hindlimb and pes. Zhangheotherium has a typical diphyodont replacement of its premolars that is characterized by an alternating pattern (p1 → p3 → p2). This alternating replacement of premolars is a derived condition shared by Dryolestes, Slaughteria, and some basal eutherians, and differs from the plesiomorphic sequential replacement of anterior postcanines in eutricondontans, in most multituberculates and in stem mammaliaforms. The calcaneus and astragalus in the ankle joint of Zhangheotherium lack superposition. This shows that the trechnotherian clade, of which Zhangheotherium is a basal taxon, has retained the primitive condition of mammaliaforms in which the astragalus is in juxtaposition with the calcaneus. Coupled with recent evidence from the earliest metatherians and eutherians, this suggests that the superposition of astragalus and calcaneus evolved in parallel in metatherians and eutherians.
Qingjin Meng
added a project goal
On the macro-evolution and bio-diversity of major vertebrates in Yanliao-Jehol Biota