Origin and Evolution of Gliding in Early Cenozoic Dermoptera (Mammalia, Primatomorpha)

  • K. Christopher Beard

Abstract

Aside from the acquisition of powered flight in bats and the aquatic habits of whales, few mammalian life-styles have led to more drastic alterations of the postcranial skeleton than the evolution of gliding in the living Dermoptera (commonly known as colugos, flying lemurs, or taguans). For obvious reasons, fundamental macroevolutionary innovations such as those made by early bats, whales, and colugos are the subject of keen interest and debate among mammalian paleontologists and systematists (e.g., Jepsen, 1970; Gingerich et al., 1983, 1990; Novacek, 1985; Beard, 1990a). For bats and whales these innovations were probably causal prerequisites for the adaptive radiations of these taxa. In contrast, it is much less obvious that the evolution of gliding in dermopterans led to an adaptive radiation at all, given the low diversity characteristic of the order today. Regardless of these differences in extant diversity, bats, whales, and colugos are distinctive components of the Earth’s biota primarily because of the suites of diagnostic attributes they possess as a result of the key innovations that occurred earlier in their respective histories.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Christopher Beard
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Vertebrate PaleontologyCarnegie Museum of Natural HistoryPittsburghUSA

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