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Evolution of dinosaur epidermal structures (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A new paper in open access:

Paul M. Barrett, David C. Evans & Nicolás E. Campione (2015)
Evolution of dinosaur epidermal structures.
Biology Letters 11: 20150229
DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0229

Spectacularly preserved non-avian dinosaurs with integumentary
filaments/feathers have revolutionized dinosaur studies and fostered
the suggestion that the dinosaur common ancestor possessed complex
integumentary structures homologous to feathers. This hypothesis has
major implications for interpreting dinosaur biology, but has not been
tested rigorously. Using a comprehensive database of dinosaur skin
traces, we apply maximum-likelihood methods to reconstruct the
phylogenetic distribution of epidermal structures and interpret their
evolutionary history. Most of these analyses find no compelling
evidence for the appearance of protofeathers in the dinosaur common
ancestor and scales are usually recovered as the plesiomorphic state,
but results are sensitive to the outgroup condition in pterosaurs.
Rare occurrences of ornithischian filamentous integument might
represent independent acquisitions of novel epidermal structures that
are not homologous with theropod feathers.


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