Sunday, December 06, 2009

Relationships & Monophyly of Therocephalian Therapsids

An investigation into the cladistic relationships and monophyly of therocephalian therapsids (Amniota: Synapsida). 2009. A. HUTTENLOCKER. Zool. J Linn. Soc. 157: 865-891.

A great image by Carl Buell that I took from Carl Zimmer’s great blog.

ABSTRACT: A comprehensive phylogenetic investigation was performed to elucidate the cladistic relationships and possible monophyly of therocephalian therapsids (Amniota: Synapsida). The phylogenetic positions of 30 therapsid taxa were examined under maximum parsimony, including 23 therocephalian genera. The analysis incorporated 110 cranial and postcranial characters in order to assess the interrelationships of basal therocephalians and eutherocephalians and their relationships to Cynodontia, representing the most complete review of therocephalian phylogeny to date.

The analysis supports the hypothesis that Therocephalia represents the monophyletic sister taxon to Cynodontia, with as many as 15 morphological synapomorphies, in contrast with other recent analyses of lesser taxon sampling.

The results also support the hypothesis that Scylacosauridae is more closely related to Eutherocephalia than to the basal therocephalian family Lycosuchidae, supporting a 'Scylacosauria' clade.

The taxa suggested here to be neotenic forms (e.g. Ictidosuchoides and Ictidosuchops) are positioned near the base of a monophyletic Baurioidea. Neotenic development of the therocephalian feeding apparatus and evolutionary parallelism with cynodonts are suggested to have been important trends in the early evolution of baurioid therocephalians into the Late Permian and Early Triassic.