Variation in the pelvic and pectoral girdles of Australian Oligo-Miocene mekosuchine crocodiles with implications for locomotion and habitus
OPEN PeerJ | 5 Jul 2017
MD Stein, A Yates, SJ Hand and M Archer
Australian Oligo-Miocene mekosuchines (Crocodylia; Crocodyloidea) display wide diversity in cranial shape and inferred hunting strategies. Terrestrial habitus has been inferred for these distinctive predators. A direct morphological signal for locomotion can be expected in the postcrania, particularly the pelvic and pectoral girdles. Here we describe fossil materials of the girdles, which chart their morphological variation in the subfamily from Eocene through to Middle Miocene. Over this period, both girdles undergo significant morphological changes. Notably, an enclosed, ventrally orientated acetabulum in the ilium is developed in one lineage. This recapitulates the erect parasagittal configuration of the pelvic limb seen in many Mesozoic crocodylomorph lineages, suggesting consistent use of erect high-walking in these mekosuchines. Other pelves from the same Oligo-Miocene deposits display morphology closer to modern crocodilians, suggesting a partitioning of locomotory strategy among sympatric mekosuchines. Plesiomorphic and derived pelvic girdles are distinguishable by parsimony analysis, and the earliest examples of the mekosuchine pelvis more closely resemble gavialids and alligatorids while latter forms converge on crown group crocodylids in the morphology of the iliac crest. This suggests that a revaluation of the base relationship of Mekosuchinae within Eusuchia is necessary.
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