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Pulanesaura, new sauropod from Early Jurassic of South Africa (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A new paper in open access:

Blair W. McPhee, Matthew F. Bonnan, Adam M. Yates, Johann Neveling &
Jonah N. Choiniere (2015)
A new basal sauropod from the pre-Toarcian Jurassic of South Africa:
evidence of niche-partitioning at the sauropodomorph–sauropod
Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 13224 (2015)

The early evolution of sauropod dinosaurs remains poorly understood,
with a paucity of unequivocal sauropod taxa known from the first
twenty million years of the Jurassic. Recently, the Early Jurassic of
South Africa has yielded an assemblage of dental and post-cranial
remains displaying a more apomorphic character suite than any other
similarly aged sauropodomorph. These remains are interpreted as a new
species of basal sauropod and recovered cladistically as the sister
taxon to Vulcanodon +more derived Sauropoda, underscoring its
importance for our understanding of this pivotal period of sauropod
evolution. Key changes in the dentition, axial skeleton and forelimb
of this new species suggest a genuine functional distinction occurring
at the sauropodiform-sauropod boundary. With reference to these
changes, we propose a scenario in which interdependent refinements of
the locomotory and feeding apparatus occurred in tandem with, or were
effected by, restrictions in the amount of vertical forage initially
available to the earliest sauropods. The hypothesized instance of
niche-partitioning between basal sauropodan taxa and higher-browsing
non-sauropodan sauropodomorphs may partially explain the rarity of
true sauropods in the basal rocks of the Jurassic, while having the
added corollary of couching the origins of Sauropoda in terms of an
ecologically delimited ‘event’.


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