Cecilia Apaldetti, Ricardo N. MartÃnez, Ignacio A. Cerda, Diego Pol & Oscar Alcober (2018)
An early trend towards gigantism in Triassic sauropodomorph dinosaurs.
Nature Ecology & Evolution (advance online publication)
Supplementary material is free:
Dinosaurs dominated the terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140âMyr during the Mesozoic era, and among them were sauropodomorphs, the largest land animals recorded in the history of life. Early sauropodomorphs were small bipeds, and it was long believed that acquisition of giant body size in this clade (over 10 tonnes) occurred during the Jurassic and was linked to numerous skeletal modifications present in Eusauropoda. Although the origin of gigantism in sauropodomorphs was a pivotal stage in the history of dinosaurs, an incomplete fossil record obscures details of this crucial evolutionary change. Here, we describe a new sauropodomorph from the Late Triassic of Argentina nested within a clade of other non-eusauropods from southwest Pangaea. Members of this clade attained large body size while maintaining a plesiomorphic cyclical growth pattern, displaying many features of the body plan of basal sauropodomorphs and lacking most anatomical traits previously regarded as adaptations to gigantism. This novel strategy highlights a highly accelerated growth rate, an improved avian-style respiratory system, and modifications of the vertebral epaxial musculature and hindlimbs as critical to the evolution of gigantism. This reveals that the first pulse towards gigantism in dinosaurs occurred over 30âMyr before the appearance of the first eusauropods.