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Exquisite discoveries and new interpretations regarding an enigmatic group of cursorial avemetatarsalians led to a new phylogenetic hypothesis regarding pterosaur affinities. Previously thought to be dinosaur precursors, lagerpetids are now considered to be the closest relatives to pterosaurs. This new hypothesis sheds light on a new explorable field, especially regarding the character acquisition and evolution within the pterosaur lineage. In the present study, the morphospace occupation of distinct skeletal regions of lagerpetids within the morphological spectrum of avemetatarsalians is investigated. This approach indicates which portions of the skeleton are more similar to the anatomy of pterosaurs and which portions present different homoplastic signals. The analyses demonstrate that the craniomandibular traits of lagerpetids are pterosaur-like, the pectoral girdle and forelimb are dinosauromorph-like and the axial skeleton and the pelvic girdle and hindlimb are unique and highly specialized among the analyzed sample. So, despite the close phylogenetic relationships, the postcranial skeleton of lagerpetids and pterosaurs are very different. The occurrence of two distinct and highly specialized groups of pterosauromorphs coexisting with a wide ecological range of dinosauromorphs during the Triassic suggests pressure for new niches occupation. © 2022 American Association for Anatomy.


Rodrigo T Müller. The closest evolutionary relatives of pterosaurs: What the morphospace occupation of different skeletal regions tell us about lagerpetids. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007). 2022 Feb 23

PMID: 35199946

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