New postcranial material of the early caseid Casea broilii Williston, 1910 (Synapsida: Caseidae) with a review of the evolution of the sacrum in paleozoic non-mammalian synapsids

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Abstract

Here we use the description of a new specimen of the small caseid synapsid Casea broilii that preserves the sacral, pelvic and hind limb regions in great detail and in three dimensions, as a unique opportunity to reevaluate the early stages in the evolution of the sacrum in the lineage that led to mammals. We place this new material in the context of sacral evolution in early caseid synapsids and conclude that the transition from two to three sacral vertebrae occurred in small-bodied species, suggesting that it was not an adaptation to heavy weight bearing. Furthermore, we compare descriptions of sacral anatomy among known early synapsids, including caseids, ophiacodontids, edaphosaurids, varanopids, and sphenacodontians and review sacral evolution in early synapsids. Based on the descriptions of new species of caseids, edaphosaurids, and varanopids over the past several decades, it is clear that a sacrum consisting of three vertebrae evolved independently at least four times in synapsids during the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian. Furthermore, similarities in the morphologies of the sacral vertebrae and ribs of these early synapsids lead us to conclude that an anterior caudal vertebra had been incorporated into the sacral series convergently in these groups. Given the repeated acquisition of a three-vertebra sacrum in early synapsids and no apparent link to body size, we argue that this sacral anatomy was related to more efficient terrestrial locomotion than to increased weight bearing.

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LeBlanc, A. R. H., & Reisz, R. R. (2014). New postcranial material of the early caseid Casea broilii Williston, 1910 (Synapsida: Caseidae) with a review of the evolution of the sacrum in paleozoic non-mammalian synapsids. PLoS ONE, 9(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115734

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