Marco Romano (2017)
Disparity vs. diversity in Stegosauria (Dinosauria, Ornithischia): cranial and post-cranial sub-dataset provide different signals.
Historical Biology (advance online publication)
The Stegosauria represents an iconic group of ornithischian dinosaurs, with a fossil record spanning the Middle Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous. In this contribution I present the first detailed analysis of the relationship between disparity and diversity through the evolutionary history of the group. The analysis has been performed on a recently published cladistic dataset, allowing the separate study of the signals deriving from discrete characters and from continuous morphometric characters. Whereas the disparity as sum of variance is decoupled with respect to diversity, the sum of ranges provides a signal fairly consistent with the trend in the number of taxa. Both sub-data sets show that evolution of stegosaurs can be considered essentially as symmetrical, i.e. the maximum exploration of the possible morphospace takes place about half way through the history of the group, with subsequent significant decline until extinction in the Upper Cretaceous. An interesting result is a decoupling of the tempo and mode of evolution of the cranium and postcranium in stegosaurs. Specifically, the evolutionary radiation with maximum saturation of morphospace is anticipated in the cranial skeleton, with maximum peak in the Oxfordian; in contrast, the postcranium explores the largest number of morphotypes subsequently during the Kimmeridgian.