Head size, weaponry, and cervical adaptation: Testing craniocervical evolutionary hypotheses in Ceratopsia

VanBuren, Collin S. and Campione, Nicolás E. and Evans, David C. (2015) Head size, weaponry, and cervical adaptation: Testing craniocervical evolutionary hypotheses in Ceratopsia. Evolution, 69 (7). pp. 1728-1744. ISSN 00143820 DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12693

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/evo.12693


The anterior cervical vertebrae form the skeletal connection between the cranial and postcranial skeletons in higher tetrapods. As a result, the morphology of the atlas-axis complex is likely to be shaped by selection pressures acting on either the head or neck. The neoceratopsian (Reptilia:Dinosauria) syncervical represents one of the most highly modified atlas-axis regions in vertebrates, being formed by the complete coalescence of the three most anterior cervical vertebrae. In ceratopsids, the syncervical has been hypothesized to be an adaptation to support a massive skull, or to act as a buttress during intraspecific head-to-head combat. Here, we test these functional/adaptive hypotheses within a phylogenetic framework and critically examine the previously proposed methods for quantifying relative head size in the fossil record for the first time. Results indicate that neither the evolution of cranial weaponry nor large head size correlates with the origin of cervical fusion in ceratopsians, and we, therefore, reject both adaptive hypotheses for the origin of the syncervical. Anterior cervical fusion has evolved independently in a number of amniote clades, and further research on extant groups with this peculiar anatomy is needed to understand the evolutionary basis for cervical fusion in Neoceratopsia.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Authors
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2015AREP; IA70; weekly list
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Evolution
Volume: 69
Page Range: pp. 1728-1744
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12693
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2016 00:52
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2016 01:14
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/3540

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