, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 119-122

Possible postcranial pneumaticity in the last common ancestor of birds and crocodilians: evidence from Erythrosuchus and other Mesozoic archosaurs

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Birds and crocodilians (extant archosaurs) have differing, distinctive morphologies. Birds have respiratory airsacs with diverticula that pneumatize the postcranial skeleton, a feature absent in crocodilians. Bony correlates of pneumatic sinuses are known in the vertebrae of some non-avian dinosaurs and in pterosaurs – taxa more closely related to birds than crocodilians. This and the apparent absence of pneumatic postcranial bones in fossil archosaurs more closely related to crocodilians than to birds, has been interpreted as evidence that postcranial pneumaticity is a derived character of birds and their nearest fossil relatives. The presence of apparent osteological correlates of postcranial pneumaticity is here reported in some non-crown-group archosaurs, and some of the fossil taxa more closely related to crocodilians than to birds. This suggests that the last common ancestor of birds and crocodilians might have had a pneumatized postcranium, and that the absence of this feature in crocodilians might be derived.

Accepted in revised form: 4 January 2001
Electronic Publication