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Eocasea, new caseid synapsid from Late Pennsylvanian of Kansas

From: Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Robert R. Reisz & Jörg Fröbisch (2014)
The Oldest Caseid Synapsid from the Late Pennsylvanian of Kansas, and
the Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates.
PLoS ONE 9(4): e94518.

The origin and early evolution of amniotes (fully terrestrial
vertebrates) led to major changes in the structure and hierarchy of
terrestrial ecosystems. The first appearance of herbivores played a
pivotal role in this transformation. After an early bifurcation into
Reptilia and Synapsida (including mammals) 315 Ma, synapsids dominated
Paleozoic terrestrial vertebrate communities, with the herbivorous
caseids representing the largest vertebrates on land. Eocasea martini
gen. et sp. nov., a small carnivorous caseid from the Late
Carboniferous, extends significantly the fossil record of Caseidae,
and permits the first clade-based study of the origin and initial
evolution of herbivory in terrestrial tetrapods. Our results
demonstrate for the first time that large caseid herbivores evolved
from small, non-herbivorous caseids. This pattern is mirrored by three
other clades, documenting multiple, independent, but temporally
staggered origins of herbivory and increase in body size among early
terrestrial tetrapods, leading to patterns consistent with modern
terrestrial ecosystem.