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Patterns and modes of the evolution of disparity in Mesozoic birds (1 Viewer)

Fred Ruhe

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Min Wang, Graeme T. Lloyd, Chi Zhang and Zhonghe Zhou, 2021

The patterns and modes of the evolution of disparity in Mesozoic birds.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 288(1944): 20203105
doi: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.3105


The origin of birds from non-avian theropod dinosaurs is one of the greatest transitions in evolution. Shortly after diverging from other theropods in the Late Jurassic, Mesozoic birds diversified into two major clades—the Enantiornithes and Ornithuromorpha—acquiring many features previously considered unique to the crown group along the way. Here, we present a comparative phylogenetic study of the patterns and modes of Mesozoic bird skeletal morphology and limb proportions. Our results show that the major Mesozoic avian groups are distinctive in discrete character space, but constrained in a morphospace defined by limb proportions. The Enantiornithines, despite being the most speciose group of Mesozoic birds, are much less morphologically disparate than their sister clade, the Ornithuromorpha—the clade that gave rise to living birds, showing disparity and diversity were decoupled in avian history. This relatively low disparity suggests that diversification of enantiornithines was characterized in exhausting fine morphologies, whereas ornithuromorphs continuously explored a broader array of morphologies and ecological opportunities. We suggest this clade-specific evolutionary versatility contributed to their sole survival of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.


Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5288869.

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