Tomasz Szczygielski (2017)
Homeotic shift at the dawn of the turtle evolution.
Royal Society Open Science 2017 4 4 160933
All derived turtles are characterized by one of the strongest reductions of the dorsal elements among Amniota, and have only 10 dorsal and eight cervical vertebrae. I demonstrate that the Late Triassic turtles, which represent successive stages of the shell evolution, indicate that the shift of the boundary between the cervical and dorsal sections of the vertebral column occurred over the course of several million years after the formation of complete carapace. The more generalized reptilian formula of at most seven cervicals and at least 11 dorsals is thus plesiomorphic for Testudinata. The morphological modifications associated with an anterior homeotic change of the first dorsal vertebra towards the last cervical vertebra in the Triassic turtles are partially recapitulated by the reduction of the first dorsal vertebra in crown-group Testudines, and they resemble the morphologies observed under laboratory conditions resulting from the experimental changes of Hox gene _expression_ patterns. This homeotic shift hypothesis is supported by the, unique to turtles, restriction of Hox-5 _expression_ domains, somitic precursors of scapula, and brachial plexus branches to the cervical region, by the number of the marginal scute-forming placodes, which was larger in the Triassic than in modern turtles, and by phylogenetic analyses.
Neil Brocklehurst, Michael O. Day, Bruce S. Rubidge & Jörg Fröbisch (2017)
Olson's Extinction and the latitudinal biodiversity gradient of tetrapods in the Permian.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 2017 284 20170231
The terrestrial vertebrate fauna underwent a substantial change in composition between the lower and middle Permian. The lower Permian fauna was characterized by diverse and abundant amphibians and pelycosaurian-grade synapsids. During the middle Permian, a therapsid-dominated fauna, containing a diverse array of parareptiles and a considerably reduced richness of amphibians, replaced this. However, it is debated whether the transition is a genuine event, accompanied by a mass extinction, or whether it is merely an artefact of the shift in sampling from the palaeoequatorial latitudes to the palaeotemperate latitudes. Here we use an up-to-date biostratigraphy and incorporate recent discoveries to thoroughly review the Permian tetrapod fossil record. We suggest that the faunal transition represents a genuine event; the lower Permian temperate faunas are more similar to lower Permian equatorial faunas than middle Permian temperate faunas. The transition was not consistent across latitudes; the turnover occurred more rapidly in Russia, but was delayed in North America. The argument that the mass extinction is an artefact of a latitudinal biodiversity gradient and a shift in sampling localities is rejected: sampling correction demonstrates an inverse latitudinal biodiversity gradient was prevalent during the Permian, with peak diversity in the temperate latitudes.
Adam M. Yates (2017)
The biochronology and palaeobiogeography of Baru (Crocodilia: Mekosuchinae) based on new specimens from the Northern Territory and Queensland, Australia.
PeerJ Preprints 5:e2909v1
New records of the Oligo-Miocene mekosuchine crocodilian, Baru, from Queensland and the Northern Territory are described. B. wickeni and B. darrowi are accepted as valid species in the genus and their diagnoses are revised. Both species are present in Queensland and the Northern Territory but are restricted in time, with B. wickeni known from the late Oligocene and B. darrowi from the middle Miocene. The broad geographic distributions and restricted time spans of these species indicate that this genus is useful for biochronology. The record of B. wickeni from the Pwerte Marnte Marnte Local Fauna in the Northern Territory establishes that the species inhabited the north-western margin of the Lake Eyre Basin drainage system. More southerly Oligo-Miocene sites in the Lake Eyre Basin contain only one crocodilian species, Australosuchus clarkae. The Pwerte Marnte Marnte occurrence of B. wickeni indicates that the separation of Baru and Australosuchus did not correspond with the boundaries of drainage basins and that palaeolatitude was a more likely segregating factor.