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Phylogeny, function and ecology in the deep evolutionary history of the mammalian forelimb.

Authors
  • Lungmus, Jacqueline K1, 2
  • Angielczyk, Kenneth D2
  • 1 Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, 1027 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
  • 2 Negaunee Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605-2496, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
Publisher
The Royal Society
Publication Date
Apr 28, 2021
Volume
288
Issue
1949
Pages
20210494–20210494
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.0494
PMID: 33878918
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

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 use of limb morphology in testing ecomorphological hypothesis about extinct tetrapods, we sought: (i) to estimate when in synapsid history, modern mammals become analogues for predicting fossil ecologies; (ii) to document examples of ecomorphological convergence; and (iii) to compare the functional solutions of distinct synapsid radiations. We quantitatively compared the forelimb shapes of the multiple fossil synapsid radiations to a broad sample of extant Mammalia representing a variety of divergent locomotor ecologies. Our results indicate that each synapsid radiation explored different areas of morphospace and arrived at functional solutions that reflected their distinctive ancestral morphologies. This work counters the narrative of non-mammalian synapsid forelimb evolution as a linear progression towards more mammalian morphologies. Instead, a disparate array of early-evolving shapes subsequently contracted towards more mammal-like forms.

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