Kenneth D. Angielczyk's research while affiliated with University of the Witwatersrand and other places

Publications (216)

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Morphological integration is relevant to evolutionary biology and paleontology because the structure of variation within populations determines the ways in which a population can respond to selective pressures. However, understanding the macroevolutionary consequences of morphological integration is elusive because the adaptive landscape is dynamic...
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The Permo‐Triassic vertebrate assemblage zones (AZs) of South Africa's Karoo Basin are a standard for local and global correlations. However, temporal, geographical and methodological limitations challenge the AZs reliability. We analyse a unique fossil dataset comprising 1408 occurrences of 115 species grouped into 19 stratigraphic bin intervals f...
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Endothermy underpins the ecological dominance of mammals and birds in diverse environmental settings1,2. However, it is unclear when this crucial feature emerged during mammalian evolutionary history, as most of the fossil evidence is ambiguous3–17. Here we show that this key evolutionary transition can be investigated using the morphology of the e...
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The Junggar and Turpan basins of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, host a well-preserved terrestrial Permo-Triassic boundary sequence exposed along the northern and southern flanks of the Bogda Mountains. During the Permo-Triassic transition, this region was located in mid-latitude northeast Pangaea, making it an important comparis...
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The richly fossiliferous deposits of the Brazilian Pedra de Fogo Formation originated in an extensive aquatic system in tropical Pangaea, and grade from marginal lacustrine into marine deposits at the depocenter in the western part of the Parnaíba Basin. In addition to the well-known tetrapod and macrofloral records from these deposits, the Pedra d...
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The origin of mammals from non-mammalian synapsids represents an iconic locomotor transition, often described as shift from reptile-like sprawling limbs and extensive lateral movements of the backbone to upright limbs and sagittal backbone movements that enhance mammal specific locomotor behaviors. However, recent research in comparative anatomy ha...
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Dicynodont therapsids are widely used in Permo-Triassic vertebrate biostratigraphy. However, recent taxonomic revisions have left few valid species with broad enough geographic distributions to use in establishing interbasinal correlations; instead, most currently recognized dicynodont species are basinal endemics. This is particularly true of the...
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The regionalization of the mammalian spinal column is an important evolutionary, developmental, and functional hallmark of the clade. Vertebral column regions are usually defined using transitions in external bone morphology, such as the presence of transverse foraminae or rib facets, or measurements of vertebral shape. Yet the internal structure o...
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Global temperatures significantly changed from the late Permian to the Early Triassic: the Earth transformed from a cool world to a hothouse climate. This transition undoubtedly had a strong impact on tetrapod physiology and distribution. During the global cooling, tetrapods generally increased their size; and the currently recognized late Permian...
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Lystrosaurus was one of the few tetrapods to survive the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, the most profound biotic crisis in Earth’s history. The wide paleolatitudinal range and high abundance of Lystrosaurus during the Early Triassic provide a unique opportunity to investigate changes in growth dynamics and longevity following the mass extinction,...
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The mammalian tusk is a unique and extreme morphotype among modern vertebrate dentitions. Tusks—defined here as ever-growing incisors or canines composed of dentine—evolved independently multiple times within mammals yet have not evolved in other extant vertebrates. This suggests that there is a feature specific to mammals that facilitates the evol...
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Captive specimens in museum collections facilitate study of rare taxa, but the lifestyles, diets, and lifespans of captive animals differ from their wild counterparts. Trabecular bone architecture adapts to in‐vivo forces, and may reflect interspecific variation in ecology and behavior as well as intraspecific variation between captive and wild spe...
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Cranial morphology is remarkably varied in living amniotes and the diversity of shapes is thought to correspond with feeding ecology, a relationship repeatedly demonstrated at smaller phylogenetic scales, but one that remains untested across amniote phylogeny. Using a combination of morphometric methods, we investigate the links between phylogeneti...
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Several amniote lineages independently evolved multiple rows of marginal teeth in response to the challenge of processing high fiber plant matter. Multiple tooth rows develop via alterations to tooth replacement in captorhinid reptiles and ornithischian dinosaurs, but the specific changes that produce this morphology differ, reflecting differences...
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The narrow active temperature ranges of ectothermic tetrapods can be used as proxies for reconstructing paleoclimates. Here we deduce the climatic preferences of major Permo-Triassic tetrapod groups based on their known geographic distributions, the critical thermal limits of living tetrapods, and paleoclimate information from other sources. The re...
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Stratigraphic sections in Bogda Mountains, NW China, provide detailed records of late Permian-Early Triassic terrestrial paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic evolution at the paleo-mid-latitude of NE Pangea. The sections are located in the Tarlong-Taodonggou, Dalongkou, and Zhaobishan areas, ~100 km apart, and ~5000 m in total thickness. An age mod...
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Permian dicynodonts were discovered in strata exposed on the flanks of the Bogda Mountains (Xinjiang, China) in 1928. Nearly all known specimens were collected in the Guodikeng Formation (= upper Wutonggou low-order cycle); the single exception is the holotype of Kunpania scopulusa, which originated in the underlying Quanzijie Formation. The Quanzi...
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Endothermy (“warm-bloodedness”) underpins the ecological dominance of mammals and birds in diverse environmental settings1-3. However, it is unclear when this crucial feature emerged during mammalian evolutionary history, as most fossil evidence is ambiguous4-25. Here, we show that new information on this key evolutionary transition can be obtained...
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Recently collected temnospondyl fossils from the Cisuralian Pedra de Fogo Formation (north-eastern Brazil) indicate a diverse assemblage of aquatic tetrapods, including the dvinosaurs Timonya anneae and Procuhy nazariensis. Here we present revised diagnoses for these species and detailed descriptions of their holotypes. Timonya anneae is distinguis...
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1. Linking morphology and function is critical to understanding the evolution of organismal shape. Performance landscapes, or performance surfaces, associate empirical functional performance data with a morphospace to assess how shape variation relates to functional variation. Performance surfaces for multiple functions also can be combined to unde...
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Mammals are the only living members of the larger clade Synapsida, which has a fossil record spanning 320 Ma. Despite the fact that much of the ecological diversity of mammals has been considered in the light of limb morphology, the ecological comparability of mammals to their fossil forerunners has not been critically assessed. Because of the wide...
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Articulating structures, such as the vertebrate skeleton or the body and limb segments of the arthropod exoskeleton, comprise a majority of the morphological diversity across the eukaryotic tree of life. Quantifying the form of articulating structures is therefore imperative for a fuller understanding of the factors influencing biological form. A w...
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Earth’s largest biotic crisis occurred during the Permo–Triassic Transition (PTT). On land, this event witnessed a turnover from synapsid- to archosauromorph-dominated assemblages and a restructuring of terrestrial ecosystems. However, understanding extinction patterns has been limited by a lack of high-precision fossil occurrence data to resolve e...
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Significance Mass extinctions permanently altered life’s evolutionary trajectory five times in Earth’s history, and the end-Permian extinction was the greatest of these biotic crises. South Africa’s unparalleled fossil record provides a window into mass extinction dynamics on land. We analyze a unique dataset comprising hundreds of precisely positi...
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The evolution of mammals from their extinct forerunners, the non-mammalian synapsids, is one of the most iconic locomotor transitions in the vertebrate fossil record. In the limb skeleton, the synapsid-mammal transition is traditionally characterized by a shift from a sprawling limb posture, resembling that of extant reptiles and amphibians, to mor...
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In the late 1980's the discovery of late Permian helical burrow casts containing articulated skeletons of the small herbivorous therapsid Diictodon feliceps led to conjecture that they may have been used for oviposition/parturition and shelter for infants. Here we present new fossil evidence in support of this interpretation and discuss the possibi...
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Here we describe the postcranial skeleton and present the first full-body reconstruction of the early tetrapod Whatcheeria deltae from the Viséan of Iowa. The skeletal proportions, including an elongate neck and large limbs, are unlike those of other Devonian and Mississippian tetrapods. The robust limbs of Whatcheeria appear adapted for a walking...
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A new parareptile from the Cisuralian Pedra de Fogo Formation of north-eastern Brazil is described. Karutia fortunata gen. et sp. nov. is the first Gondwanan member of Acleistorhinidae, a clade previously known only from North America but thought to be closely related to the Russian Lanthanosuchidae. A re-examination of parareptile phylogeny indica...
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Numerous fossils of the toothed dicynodont Endothiodon have been collected previously from the Permian K5 formation of the Metangula Graben (Niassa, Mozambique). However,no identifiable vertebrate fossils have been reported from other stratigraphic units in the basin. Here we report likely Triassic tetrapod remains from the base of the Fubué Format...
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Taphonomic deformation, the distortion of fossils as a result of geological processes, poses problems for the use of geometric morphometrics in addressing paleobiological questions. Signal from biological variation, such as ontogenetic trends and sexual dimorphism, may be lost if variation from deformation is too high. Here, we investigate the effe...
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Biological structures with extreme morphologies are puzzling because they often lack obvious functions and stymie comparisons to homologous or analogous features with more typical shapes. An example of such an extreme morphotype is the uniquely modified vertebral column of the hero shrew Scutisorex, which features numerous accessory intervertebral...
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The Pedra de Fogo Formation in the Parnaíba Basin of northeastern Brazil hosts a recently discovered lacustrine fauna and provides the only known record of the Captorhinidae in South America. Here, new captorhinid remains from this unit are described. Two partial mandibles, including one formerly ascribed to the genus Captorhinus, are here referred...
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The evolution of semi-independent modules is hypothesized to underlie the functional diversification of serially repeating (metameric) structures. The mammal vertebral column is a classic example of a metameric structure that is both modular, with well-defined morphological regions, and functionally differentiated. How the evolution of regions is r...
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A fundamental concept in evolutionary biology is that life tends to become more complex through geologic time, but empirical examples of this phenomenon are controversial. One debate is whether increasing complexity is the result of random variations, or if there are evolutionary processes which actively drive its acquisition, and if these processe...
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Cistecephalids are among the most distinctive Permian dicynodonts because of their highly derived skulls and postcrania, which indicate a fossorial ecology. Four cistecephalid species have been described from India, South Africa, and Tanzania; a fifth putative species has been reported from the Luangwa Basin of Zambia but never formally described....
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Previous studies of cranial shape have established a consistent interspecific allometric pattern relating the relative lengths of the face and braincase regions of the skull within multiple families of mammals. In this interspecific allometry, the facial region of the skull is proportionally longer than the braincase in larger species. The regulari...
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Mammals and their closest fossil relatives are unique among tetrapods in expressing a high degree of pectoral girdle and forelimb functional diversity associated with fully pelagic, cursorial, subterranean, volant, and other lifestyles. However, the earliest members of the mammalian stem lineage, the “pelycosaur”-grade synapsids, present a far more...
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Constraint is a universal feature of morphological evolution. The vertebral column of synapsids (mammals and their close relatives) is a classic example of this phenotypic restriction, with greatly reduced variation in the number of vertebrae compared with the sauropsid lineage. Synapsids generally possess only three sacral vertebrae, which articul...
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Background The axial skeleton consists of repeating units (vertebrae) that are integrated through their development and evolution. Unlike most tetrapods, vertebrae in the mammalian trunk are subdivided into distinct thoracic and lumbar modules, resulting in a system that is constrained in terms of count but highly variable in morphology. This study...
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The geological persistence of biotic assemblages and their reorganization or destruction by mass extinctions are key features of long-term macroevolutionary and macroecological patterns in the fossil record. These events affected biotic history disproportionately and left permanent imprints on global biodiversity. Here we hypothesize that the geolo...