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Evolution of the Sauropterygian Labyrinth with Increasingly Pelagic Lifestyles


Neenan, James M; Reich, Tobias; Evers, Serjoscha W; Druckenmiller, Patrick S; Voeten, Dennis F A E; Choiniere, Jonah N; Barrett, Paul M; Pierce, Stephanie E; Benson, Roger B J (2017). Evolution of the Sauropterygian Labyrinth with Increasingly Pelagic Lifestyles. Current Biology, 27(24):3852-3858.e3.

Abstract

SUMMARY Sauropterygia, a successful clade of marine reptiles abundant in aquatic ecosystems of the Mesozoic, inhabited nearshore to pelagic habitats over >180 million years of evolutionary history [1]. Aquatic vertebrates experience strong buoyancy forces that allow movement in a three-dimensional environment, resulting in structural convergences such as flippers and fish-like bauplans [2, 3], as well as convergences in the sensory systems. We used computed tomographic scans of 19 sauropterygian species to determine how the transition to pelagic lifestyles influenced the evolution of the endosseous labyrinth, which houses the vestibular sensory organ of balance and orientation [4]. Semicircular canal geometries underwent distinct changes during the transition from nearshore Triassic sauropterygians to the later, pelagic plesiosaurs. Triassic sauropterygians have dorsoventrally compact, anteroposteriorly elongate labyrinths, resembling those of crocodylians. In contrast, plesiosaurs have compact, bulbous labyrinths, sharing some features with those of sea turtles. Differences in relative labyrinth size among sauropterygians correspond to locomotory differences:bottom-walking [5, 6] placodonts have proportionally larger labyrinths than actively swimming taxa (i.e., all other sauropterygians). Furthermore, independent evolutionary origins of short-necked, large-headed ‘‘pliosauromorph’’ body proportions among plesiosaurs coincide with reductions of labyrinth size, paralleling the evolutionary history of cetaceans [7]. Sauropterygian labyrinth evolution is therefore correlated closely with both locomotory style and body proportions, and these changes are consistent with isolated observations made previously in other marine tetrapods. Our study presents the first virtual reconstructions of plesiosaur endosseous labyrinths and the first large-scale, quantitative study detailing the effects of increasingly aquatic lifestyles on labyrinth morphology among marine reptiles.

Abstract

SUMMARY Sauropterygia, a successful clade of marine reptiles abundant in aquatic ecosystems of the Mesozoic, inhabited nearshore to pelagic habitats over >180 million years of evolutionary history [1]. Aquatic vertebrates experience strong buoyancy forces that allow movement in a three-dimensional environment, resulting in structural convergences such as flippers and fish-like bauplans [2, 3], as well as convergences in the sensory systems. We used computed tomographic scans of 19 sauropterygian species to determine how the transition to pelagic lifestyles influenced the evolution of the endosseous labyrinth, which houses the vestibular sensory organ of balance and orientation [4]. Semicircular canal geometries underwent distinct changes during the transition from nearshore Triassic sauropterygians to the later, pelagic plesiosaurs. Triassic sauropterygians have dorsoventrally compact, anteroposteriorly elongate labyrinths, resembling those of crocodylians. In contrast, plesiosaurs have compact, bulbous labyrinths, sharing some features with those of sea turtles. Differences in relative labyrinth size among sauropterygians correspond to locomotory differences:bottom-walking [5, 6] placodonts have proportionally larger labyrinths than actively swimming taxa (i.e., all other sauropterygians). Furthermore, independent evolutionary origins of short-necked, large-headed ‘‘pliosauromorph’’ body proportions among plesiosaurs coincide with reductions of labyrinth size, paralleling the evolutionary history of cetaceans [7]. Sauropterygian labyrinth evolution is therefore correlated closely with both locomotory style and body proportions, and these changes are consistent with isolated observations made previously in other marine tetrapods. Our study presents the first virtual reconstructions of plesiosaur endosseous labyrinths and the first large-scale, quantitative study detailing the effects of increasingly aquatic lifestyles on labyrinth morphology among marine reptiles.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Paleontological Institute and Museum
Dewey Decimal Classification:560 Fossils & prehistoric life
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:31 Jan 2018 16:31
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 13:14
Publisher:Cell Press (Elsevier)
ISSN:0960-9822
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.069
PubMed ID:29225027
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_173173
  • : Project TitleSensory Palaeoecology in Secondary Aquatic Reptiles - The Radiation of Independent Triassic Marine Reptile Lineages following the Earthâ��s Largest Mass Extinction Event
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP2ZHP3_162102
  • : Project TitleThe Evolution of Inner Ear Morphology in Plesiosaur Marine Reptiles

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