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Thread: New discoveries reveal early evolution of reptilian dinosaurs

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    New discoveries reveal early evolution of reptilian dinosaurs

    Source: https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/users/87830-tiago-rodrigues-simoes/posts/59880-a-paleontological-gold-mine-to-understand-the-radiation-of-reptiles



    A paleontological gold mine to understand the radiation of reptiles

    A new early lizard- like reptile provides insights into the radiation of lepidosaurian reptiles and recovery patterns from the mother of all extinctions

    Vellbergia turns out to be the third species of lepidosauromorph from Vellberg, out of many more yet to come in the future. This means that this site has a true potential to be the most important site in the world to understand the early evolution of lizard-like reptiles: one of my favorite topics. Marked by an underwhelming early fossil record, it is likely that Vellberg will finally provide researchers with a more detailed picture on the earliest steps on the origin of lizards and their kin, which currently represents one of the most poorly understood evolutionary transitions in vertebrate evolution.

    Tiago Rodrigues Simões
    Alexander Agassiz Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

    I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Pierce Lab @ Dept. Organismic & Evolutionary Biology/Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. I work on the early evolution of squamates and on the phylogenetic relationships among squamates and other major reptile lineages. I started my career in my home city (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), developing research on fossil reptiles at the Museu Nacional/UFRJ, and subsequently moved to Canada, where I obtained my PhD at the University of Alberta and expanded my expertise on phylogenetic methods, functional morphology and macroevolution. I am interested in combining data from living and extinct species, as well as morphological and molecular data, to explore and investigate deep time problems in vertebrate evolution.
    Vellberg is a small village located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in Southern Germany (approximately 80 km from Stuttgart). With less than 5,000 inhabitants, few would think that this beautiful setting and its surroundings host one of the most important sites in the world to understand the evolution of reptiles. Deposits near Vellberg, dated from the beginning of the Middle Triassic (~240 million years ago), provide one of the few known locations where the early steps in the radiation of reptiles during the Triassic can be studied in detail. The Triassic period started after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, the largest mass extinction in the history of complex life and represented a key time vertebrate evolution. As I previously discussed here, it is important for us to understand how biodiversity was impacted by the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, and how surviving lineages radiated during the Triassic, as it can teach us about our own ongoing climate crisis.

    Some of the main reasons for the uniqueness of this location have not only to do with the age of its rocks and the fossils embedded within them, but also because many important fossil localities bearing vertebrate fossils in the first 10-15 million years of the Triassic were formed in marine environments. Therefore, Triassic fossil sites preserve mostly marine creatures, rarely providing insights into ongoing changes of vertebrate life on land. The few deposits that have an abundance of terrestrial vertebrates (such as in Southwest Britain and Poland) usually have most fossil specimens found disarticulated and mixed with specimens from other species, sometimes limiting our ability to fully understand their anatomy and placement on the reptile evolutionary tree. Vellberg, on the other hand, preserves a large number of articulated or associated terrestrial skeletons, making it much easier for paleontologists to recognize all preserved elements and attribute them to their respective species.

    In recent years, Vellberg has yielded a variety of new species of fossil reptiles that have been revealing fundamental aspects of reptile evolution: most notably one of the oldest turtles ever found that reveals fundamental aspects of the evolution of the turtle skeleton. Besides, there has been recent discoveries of small and delicate bones belonging to some of the earliest members of the lineage comprising modern-day lizards, snakes and tuataras (the later with only one living representatives, inhabiting New Zealand), known as lepidosauromorphs. This is perhaps the most surprising aspect of all about Vellberg. Despite the incredible diversity of more than 10,500 species of modern lizards, plus hundreds of fossil species, you do not need many fingers to count all of the known species of lepidosauromorphs during their first 40 million years of existence. Some of the major reasons for this include the delicate and hard-to-preserve nature of their skeletons, besides the relatively small number of researchers working on their fossils. Therefore, for the entire Triassic, the most species rich localities bearing fossil lepidosauromorphs in the world (Southwest Britain) have only six valid species, mostly known from disarticulated elements only.

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    The importance of the discoveries at this site is that the abundant fossils show the evolving species and the predator prey relationship of animals over time in the cyclic deposition of sandstone, shale, and limestone. It is well worth the read of the full illustrated article.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    Evolution is God's ID rogue06's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shunyadragon View Post
    The importance of the discoveries at this site is that the abundant fossils show the evolving species and the predator prey relationship of animals over time in the cyclic deposition of sandstone, shale, and limestone. It is well worth the read of the full illustrated article.
    For which a link to it would be nice.

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogue06 View Post
    For which a link to it would be nice.
    Source: https://natureecoevocommunity.nature...on-of-reptiles
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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