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New insights into the morphology of the Carboniferous tetrapod Crassigyrinus scoticus from computed tomography

  • Eva C. Herbst (a1) and John R. Hutchinson (a1)
Abstract

The Carboniferous tetrapod Crassigyrinus scoticus is an enigmatic animal in terms of its morphology and its phylogenetic position. Crassigyrinus had extremely reduced forelimbs, and was aquatic, perhaps secondarily. Recent phylogenetic analyses tentatively place Crassigyrinus close to the whatcheeriids. Many Carboniferous tetrapods exhibit several characteristics associated with terrestrial locomotion, and much research has focused on how this novel locomotor mode evolved. However, to estimate the selective pressures and constraints during this important time in vertebrate evolution, it is also important to study early tetrapods like Crassigyrinus that either remained aquatic or secondarily became aquatic. We used computed tomographic scanning to search for more data about the skeletal morphology of Crassigyrinus and discovered several elements previously hidden by the matrix. These elements include more ribs, another neural arch, potential evidence of an ossified pubis and maybe of pleurocentra. We also discovered several additional metatarsals with interesting asymmetrical morphology that may have functional implications. Finally, we reclassify what was previously thought to be a left sacral rib as a left fibula and show previously unknown aspects of the morphology of the radius. These discoveries are examined in functional and phylogenetic contexts.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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