Reacquisition of the lower temporal bar in sexually dimorphic fossil lizards provides a rare case of convergent evolution

T.R. Simões, G.F. Funston, B. Vafaeian, R.L. Nydam, M.R. Doschak, M.W. Caldwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Temporal fenestration has long been considered a key character to understand relationships amongst reptiles. In particular, the absence of the lower temporal bar (LTB) is considered one of the defining features of squamates (lizards and snakes). In a re-assessment of the borioteiioid lizard Polyglyphanodon sternbergi (Cretaceous, North America), we detected a heretofore unrecognized ontogenetic series, sexual dimorphism (a rare instance for Mesozoic reptiles) and a complete LTB, a feature only recently recognized for another borioteiioid, Tianyusaurus zhengi (Cretaceous, China). A new phylogenetic analysis (with updates on a quarter of the scorings for P. sternbergi) indicates not only that the LTB was reacquired in squamates, but it happened independently at least twice. An analysis of the functional significance of the LTB using proxies indicates that, unlike for T. zhengi, this structure had no apparent functional advantage in P. sternbergi and it is better explained as the result of structural constraint release. The observed canalization against a LTB in squamates was broken at some point in the evolution of borioteiioids, whereas never re-occuring in other squamate lineages. This case of convergent evolution involves a mix of both adaptationist and structuralist causes, which is unusual for both living and extinct vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24087
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016


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