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Giant extinct caiman breaks constraint on the axial skeleton of extant crocodylians

Scheyer, TM; Hutchinson, JR; Strauss, O; Delfino, M; Carrillo-Briceno, JD; Sanchez, R; Sanchez-Villagra, MR

ELIFE
2019
VL / 8 - BP / - EP /
abstract
The number of precaudal vertebrae in all extant crocodylians is remarkably conservative, with nine cervicals, 15 dorsals and two sacrals, a pattern present also in their closest extinct relatives. The consistent vertebral count indicates a tight control of axial patterning by Hox genes during development. Here we report on a deviation from this pattern based on an associated skeleton of the giant caimanine Purussaurus, a member of crown Crocodylia, and several other specimens from the Neogene of the northern neotropics. P. mirandai is the first crown-crocodylian to have three sacrals, two true sacral vertebrae and one non-pathological and functional dorsosacral, to articulate with the ilium (pelvis). The giant body size of this caiman relates to locomotory and postural changes. The iliosacral configuration, a more vertically oriented pectoral girdle, and low torsion of the femoral head relative to the condyles are hypothesized specializations for more upright limb orientation or weight support.
177th Global

AccesS level

DOAJ Gold, Green Published, Green Accepted

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PROYECTO FINANCIADO POR PLAN NACIONAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN AGENCIA ESTATAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN, MINISTERIO DE CIENCIA E INNOVACIÓN. PID2019-109127RB-I00