Most downloaded biology preprints, all time
in category paleontology
143 results found. For more information, click each entry to expand.
19,081 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Our knowledge of the reproductive biology of dinosaurs covers a range of aspects, from brooding behaviour to nesting style and the timing of sexual maturity. Yet, the basic anatomy and function of the cloaca in non-avialan dinosaurs remains unknown. Here, we describe the outer morphology of the only known non-avialan dinosaur cloaca, preserved in an exceptional specimen of the early-diverging ceratopsian dinosaur Psittacosaurus . We clarify the position of the cloaca with respect to the ischia and caudal vertebrae and document the scales immediately adjacent to the abdomen and tail. We find that the cloaca is from a near-sexually mature subadult individual and is most similar to the cloaca of crocodylians, to the exclusion of lepidosaurians and birds. However, the sex of SMF R 4970 could not be determined as the cloaca and the rest of the specimen does not yield any sexually dimorphic information. This study highlights the ongoing role of exceptional specimens in providing rare soft tissues that help to bridge longstanding gaps in our knowledge of the basic biology of dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
3,051 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The domestication of dogs probably occurred in Eurasia by 16,000 years ago, with the initial peopling of the Americas potentially happening around the same time. Dogs were long thought to have accompanied the first migrations into the Americas, but conclusive evidence for Paleoindian dogs is lacking. The direct dating of two dogs from the Koster site (Greene Co., Illinois) and a newly-described dog from the Stilwell II site (Pike Co., Illinois) to between 10,190-9,630 cal BP represents the earliest evidence of domestic dogs in the Americas and individual dog burials in worldwide archaeological record. The over 4,500 year discrepancy between the timing of initial human migration into the Americas and the earliest evidence for domesticated dogs suggests either earlier dogs are going unseen or unidentified or dogs arrived later with a subsequent human migration.
2,864 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Oculudentavis khaungraae was described based on a tiny skull trapped in amber. The slender tapering rostrum with retracted osseous nares, large eyes, and short vaulted braincase led to its identification as the smallest avian dinosaur on record, comparable to the smallest living hummingbirds. Despite its bird-like appearance, Oculudentavis showed several features inconsistent with its original phylogenetic placement. Here we describe a more complete, specimen that demonstrates Oculudentavis is actually a bizarre lizard of uncertain position. The new interpretation and phylogenetic placement highlights a rare case of convergent evolution rarely seen among reptiles. Our results re-affirm the importance of Myanmar amber in yielding unusual taxa from a forest ecosystem rarely represented in the fossil record. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
2,662 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Over millennia, steppe nomadic tribes raided and sometimes overran settled Eurasian civilizations. Most polities formed by steppe nomads were ephemeral, making it difficult to ascertain their genetic roots or what present-day populations, if any, have descended from them. Exceptionally, the Khazar Khaganate controlled the trade artery between the Black and Caspian Seas in VIII-IX centuries, acting as one of the major conduits between East and West. However, the genetic identity of the ruling elite within the polyglot and polyethnic Khaganate has been a much-debated mystery; a controversial hypothesis posits that post-conversion to Judaism the Khazars gave rise to modern Ashkenazim. We analyzed whole-genome sequences of eight men and one woman buried within the distinctive kurgans of the Khazar upper (warrior) class. After comparing them with reference panels of present-day Eurasian and Iron Age populations, we found that the Khazar political organization relied on a polyethnic elite. It was predominantly descended from Central Asian tribes but incorporated genetic admixture from populations conquered by Khazars. Thus, the Khazar ruling class was likely relatively small and able to maintain a genetic identity distinct from their subjugated populations over the course of centuries. Yet, men of mixed ancestry could also rise into the warrior class, possibly providing troop numbers necessary to maintain control of their large territory. However, when the Khaganate collapsed it left few persistent genetic traces in Europe. Our data confirm the Turkic roots of the Khazars, but also highlight their ethnic diversity and some integration of conquered populations.
2,496 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Here we present the first full anatomical description of the 3.67 million-year-old Australopithecus skull StW 573 that was recovered with its skeleton from the Sterkfontein Member 2 breccia in the Silberberg Grotto. Analysis demonstrates that it is most similar in multiple key morphological characters to a group of fossils from Sterkfontein Member 4 and Makapansgat that are here distinguished morphologically as A. prometheus. This taxon contrasts with another group of fossils from those sites assigned to A. africanus. The anatomical reasons for why these groupings should not be lumped together (as is frequently done for the South African fossils) are discussed in detail. In support of this classification, we also present for the first time a palate (StW 576 from Sterkfontein Member 4) newly reconstructed by RJC, which has a uniquely complete adult dentition of an A. africanus. The StW 573 skull also has certain similarities with other earlier Australopithecus fossils in East Africa, A. afarensis and A. anamensis, which are discussed. One of its most interesting features is a pattern of very heavy anterior dental wear unlike that found in A. africanus but resembling that found in A. anamensis at 4.17 Ma. While StW 573 is the only hominid fossil in Sterkfontein Member 2, we conclude that competitive exclusion probably accounts for the synchronous and sympatric presence of two species of Australopithecus in the younger deposits at Makapansgat and Sterkfontein Member 4. Because the StW 573 skull is associated with a near-complete skeleton that is also described for the first time in this special issue, we are now able to use this individual to improve our understanding of more fragmentary finds in the South African fossil record of Australopithecus.
2,465 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Robin Huw Crompton, Juliet McClymont, Susannah Thorpe, William Sellers, Jason Heaton, Travis Rayne Pickering, Todd Pataky, Dominic Stratford, Kristian Carlson, Tea Jashashvili, Amélie Beaudet, Laurent Bruxelles, Colleen Goh, Kathleen Kuman, Ronald Clarke
StW 573, from Sterkfontein Member 2, dated ca 3.67 Ma, is by far the most complete skeleton of an australopith to date. Joint morphology is in many cases closely matched in available elements of Australopithecus anamensis (eg. proximal and distal tibial and humeral joint-surfaces) and there are also close similarities to features of the scapula, in particular, of KSD-VP-1/1 A. afarensis from Woranso-Mille. The closest similarities are, however, to the partial skeleton of StW 431 from Sterkfontein Member 4. When considered together, both StW 573 and StW 431 express an hip joint morphology quite distinct from that of A. africanus Sts14, and a proximal femur of a presumed A. africanus from Jacovec Cavern at Sterkfontein, StW 598. This, and other evidence presented herein, suggests there are two pelvic girdle morphs at Sterkfontein, supporting Clarke (2013) in his recognition of a second species, A. prometheus, containing StW 573 and StW 431. StW 573 is the first hominid skeleton where limb proportions are known unequivocally. It demonstrates that some early hominins, at the time of formation of the Laetoli footprints (3.6 Ma), were large-bodied. with hindlimbs longer than forelimbs. Modelling studies on extant primates indicate that the intermembral index (IMI) of StW 573, low for a non-human great ape, would have substantially enhanced economy of bipedal walking over medium-to-long distances, but that it was still too high for effective walking while load-carrying. It would, however, have somewhat reduced the economy of horizontal climbing, but made Gorilla-like embracing of large tree-trunks less possible. Consideration of both ethnographic evidence from modern indigenous arboreal foragers and modern degeneracy theory cautions against prescriptive interpretations of hand- and foot-function, by confirming that both human-like upright bipedalism and functional capabilities of the hand and foot can be effective in short-distance arboreal locomotion.
2,451 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Fossil age data and molecular sequences are increasingly combined to establish a timescale for the Tree of Life. Arthropods, as the most species-rich and morphologically disparate animal phylum, have received substantial attention, particularly with regard to questions such as the timing of habitat shifts (e.g. terrestrialisation), genome evolution (e.g. gene family duplication and functional evolution), origins of novel characters and behaviours (e.g. wings and flight, venom, silk), biogeography, rate of diversification (e.g. Cambrian explosion, insect coevolution with angiosperms, evolution of crab body plans), and the evolution of arthropod microbiomes. We present herein a series of rigorously vetted calibration fossils for arthropod evolutionary history, taking into account recently published guidelines for best practice in fossil calibration. These are restricted to Palaeozoic and Mesozoic fossils, no deeper than ordinal taxonomic level, nonetheless resulting in 80 fossil calibrations for 102 clades. This work is especially timely owing to the rapid growth of molecular sequence data and the fact that many included fossils have been described within the last five years. This contribution provides a resource for systematists and other biologists interested in deep-time questions in arthropod evolution.
2,042 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The database regarding the earliest occupation of Europe has increased significantly in quantity and quality of data points over the last two decades, mainly through the addition of new sites as a result of long-term systematic excavations and large-scale prospections of Early and early Middle Pleistocene exposures. The site distribution pattern suggests an ephemeral presence of hominins in the south of Europe from around one million years ago, with occasional short northward expansions along the western coastal areas when temperate conditions permitted. From around 600,000-700,000 years ago Acheulean artefacts appear in Europe and somewhat later hominin presence seems to pick up, with more sites and now some also present in colder climatic settings. It is again only later, around 350,000 years ago, that the first sites show up in more continental, central parts of Europe, east of the Rhine. A series of recent papers on the Early Pleistocene palaeontological site of Untermassfeld (Germany) makes claims that are of great interest for studies of earliest Europe and are at odds with the described pattern: the papers suggest that Untermassfeld has yielded stone tools and humanly modified faunal remains, evidence for a one million years old hominin presence in European continental mid-latitudes, and additional evidence that hominins were well-established in Europe already around that time period. Here we evaluate these claims and demonstrate that these studies are severely flawed in terms of data on provenance of the materials studied and in the interpretation of faunal remains and lithics as testifying to a hominin presence at the site. In actual fact any reference to the Untermassfeld site as an archaeological one is unwarranted. Furthermore, it is not the only European Early Pleistocene site where inferred evidence for hominin presence is problematic. The strength of the spatiotemporal patterns of hominin presence and absence depend on the quality of the data points we work with, and data base maintenance, including critical evaluation of new sites, is crucial to advance our knowledge of the expansions and contractions of hominin ranges during the Pleistocene.
1,980 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The fossil record is a rich source of information about biological diversity in the past. However, the fossil record is not only incomplete but has inherent biases due to geological, physical, chemical and biological factors. Our knowledge of past life is also biased because of differences in academic and amateur interests and sampling efforts. As a result, not all individuals or species that lived in the past are equally likely to be discovered at any point in time or space. To reconstruct temporal dynamics of diversity using the fossil record, biased sampling must be explicitly taken into account. Here, we introduce an approach that utilizes the variation in the number of times each species is observed in the fossil record to estimate both sampling bias and true richness. We term our technique TRiPS (True Richness estimated using a Poisson Sampling model) and explore its robustness to violation of its assumptions via simulations. We then venture to estimate sampling bias and absolute species richness of dinosaurs in the geological stages of the Mesozoic. Using TRiPS, we estimate that 1936 (1543-2468) species of dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Mesozoic. We also present improved estimates of species richness trajectories of the three major dinosaur clades; the sauropodomorphs, ornithischians and theropods, casting doubt on the Jurassic-Cretaceous extinction event and demonstrating that all dinosaur groups are subject to considerable sampling bias throughout the Mesozoic.
1,863 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
In the competition for the opposite sex, sexual selection can favor production of exaggerated features, but the high cost of such features in terms of energy consumption and enemy avoidance makes them go to extinction under the influence of natural selection. However, to our knowledge, fossil on exaggerated traits that are conducive to attracting opposite sex are very rare. Here, we report the exaggerated leaf-like expansion antennae of Magnusantenna wuae Du & Chen gen. et sp. nov. (Hemiptera: Coreidae) with more abundant sensory hairs from a new nymph coreid preserved in a Cretaceous Myanmar amber. The antennae are the largest among species of coreid and one of the largest known insects. Such bizarre antennae indicate that sensitive and delicate sensory system and magnificent appearance in Hemiptera have been already well established in mid-Cretaceous. Our findings provide evidence for Darwin’s view that sensory organs play an important role in sexual selection. This nymph with the leaf-like antennae may also represents a new camouflage pattern for defense. However, the oversized antennae are costly to develop and maintain, increasing the risks from predators. Such unparalleled expanded antennae might be the key factor for the evolutionary fate of this Myanmar amber coreid species. Significance Darwin proposed the importance of sensory organs in sexual selection, but it was greatly ignored compared with weapons and other common ornaments. Here, we report a new type of insect antennae, the multiple segments leaf-like expansion antennae from a new nymph coreid preserved in a Cretaceous Myanmar amber. Our finding provides evidence for the prominent role of sensory organs in sexual selection and thus supports Darwin’s viewpoint. This discovery demonstrates that high-efficiency antennae were present in Coreidae 99 million years ago. In addition, the exaggerated antennae might represent a new evolutionary innovation for defensive behavior. This is a case in which the high benefits and high costs brought by the exaggerated antennae jointly determine the direction of species evolution. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
1,779 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Evan T. Saitta, Renxing Liang, Chui Y Lau, Caleb M Brown, Nicholas R Longrich, Thomas G. Kaye, Ben J. Novak, Steven Salzberg, Paul Donohoe, Marc Dickinson, Jakob Vinther, Ian D Bull, Richard A Brooker, Peter Martin, Geoffrey D Abbott, Timothy D. J. Knowles, Kirsty Penkman, Tullis C. Onstott
Fossils were long thought to lack original organic material, but the discovery of organic molecules in fossils and sub-fossils, thousands to millions of years old, has demonstrated the potential of fossil organics to provide radical new insights into the fossil record. How long different organics can persist remains unclear, however. Non-avian dinosaur bone has been hypothesised to preserve endogenous organics including collagen, osteocytes, and blood vessels, but proteins and labile lipids are unstable during diagenesis or over long periods of time. Furthermore, bone is porous and an open system, allowing microbial and organic flux. Some of these organics within fossil bone have therefore been identified as either contamination or microbial biofilm, rather than original organics. Here, we use biological and chemical analyses of Late Cretaceous dinosaur bones and sediment matrix to show that dinosaur bone hosts a diverse microbiome. Fossils and matrix were freshly-excavated, aseptically-acquired, and then analysed using microscopy, spectroscopy, chromatography, spectrometry, DNA extraction, and 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. The fossil organics differ from modern bone collagen chemically and structurally. A key finding is that 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing reveals that the subterranean fossil bones host a unique, living microbiome distinct from that of the surrounding sediment. Even in the subsurface, dinosaur bone is biologically active and behaves as an open system, attracting microbes that might alter original organics or complicate the identification of original organics. These results suggest caution regarding claims of dinosaur bone soft tissue preservation and illustrate a potential role for microbial communities in post-burial taphonomy.
1,728 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, Martin Bates, Roselyn L. Ware, Tim Kinnaird, Benjamin Gearey, Tom Hill, Richard Telford, Cathy Batt, Ben Stern, John Whittaker, Sarah Davies, Mohammed Ben Sharada, Rosie Everett, Rebecca Cribdon, Logan Kistler, Sam Harris, Kevin Kearney, James Walker, Merle Muru, Derek Hamilton, Matthew Law, Richard Bates, Robin G Allaby
Doggerland was a land mass occupying an area currently covered by the North Sea until marine inundation took place during the mid-Holocene, ultimately separating the British land mass from the rest of Europe. The Storegga Slide, which triggered a tsunami reflected in sediment deposits in the Northern North Sea, North East coastlines of the British Isles and across the North Atlantic, was a major event during this transgressive phase. The spatial extent of the Storegga tsunami however remains unconfirmed because to date no direct evidence for the event has been recovered from the southern North Sea. We present evidence that Storegga associated deposits occur in the southern North Sea. Palaeo-river systems have been identified using seismic survey in the southwestern North Sea and sedimentary cores extracted to track the Mid Holocene inundation. At the head of one palaeo-river system near the Outer Dowsing Deep, the Southern River, we observed an abrupt and catastrophic inundation stratum. Based on lithostratigraphic, macro and microfossils and sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) evidence, supported by optical stimulation luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon dating, we conclude these deposits were a result of the Storegga event. Seismic identification of this stratum to adjacent cores indicated diminished traces of the tsunami, largely removed by subsequent erosional processes. Our results demonstrate the catastrophic impact of Storegga within this area of the Southern North Sea, but indicate that these effects were temporary and likely localized and mitigated by the dense woodland and topography of the area. We conclude clear physical remnants of the wave are likely to be restricted to inland basins and incised river valley systems.
1,643 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Hereditary hierarchy is one of the major features of complex societies. Without a written record, prehistoric evidence for hereditary hierarchy is rare. Intentional cranial deformation (ICD) is a cross-generational cultural practice that embodies social identity and culture beliefs in adults through the behavior of altering infant head shape. Therefore, ICD is usually regarded as an archeological clue for the occurrence of hereditary hierarchy. With a calibrated radiocarbon age of 11245-11200 years BP, a fossil skull of an adult male displaying ICD discovered in Northeastern China is among the oldest-known ICD practices in the world. Along with the other earliest global occurrences of ICD, this discovery points to the early initiation of complex societies among the non-agricultural local societies in Northeastern Asia in the early Holocene. A population increase among previously more isolated terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene hunter-gatherer groups likely increased their interactions, possibly fueling the formation of the first complex societies.
1,622 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The systematic classification of Osmundaceae has long remained controversial. Recent molecular data indicate that Osmunda is paraphyletic, and needs to be separated into Osmundastrum and Osmunda s. str. Here we describe an exquisitely preserved Jurassic Osmunda rhizome (O. pulchella sp. nov.) that combines diagnostic features of Osmundastrum and Osmunda, calling molecular evidence for paraphyly into question. We assembled a new morphological matrix based on rhizome anatomy, and used network analyses to establish phylogenetic relationships between fossil and extant members of modern Osmundaceae. We re-analysed the original molecular data to evaluate root-placement support. Finally, we integrated morphological and molecular data-sets using the evolutionary placement algorithm. Osmunda pulchella and five additional, newly identified Jurassic Osmunda species show anatomical character suites intermediate between Osmundastrum and Osmunda. Molecular evidence for paraphyly is ambiguous: a previously unrecognized signal from spacer sequences favours an alternative root placement that would resolve Osmunda s.l. as monophyletic. Our evolutionary placement analysis identifies fossil species as ancestral members of modern genera and subgenera. Altogether, the seemingly conflicting evidence from morphological, anatomical, molecular, and palaeontological data can be elegantly reconciled under the assumption that Osmunda is indeed monophyletic; the recently proposed root-placement in Osmundaceaebased solely on molecular datalikely results from un- or misinformative out-group signals.
1,571 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
We welcome any new interpretation or alternative hypothesis regarding the taxonomic affinity of the enigmatic Oculudentavis khaungraae. However, here we demonstrate that Li et al. have failed to provide conclusive evidence for the reidentification of HPG-15-3 as a squamate. We analyse this specimen in a matrix that includes a broad sample of diapsid reptiles and resolve support for this identification only when no avian taxa are included. Regardless of whether this peculiar skull belongs to a tiny bird or to a bizarre new group of lizards, the holotype of Oculudentavis khaungraae is a very interesting and unusual specimen, the discovery of which represents an important contribution to palaeontology. Its discovery documents a potential new case of convergent evolution in reptiles, while highlighting the importance of amber deposits for documenting taxa not recorded in sedimentary deposits. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
1,517 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The Coelurosauria are a group of mostly feathered theropods that gave rise to birds, the only dinosaurs that survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event and are still found today. Between their first appearance in the Middle Jurassic up to the end Cretaceous, coelurosaurs were party to dramatic geographic changes on the Earth's surface, including the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea, and the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. These plate tectonic events are thought to have caused vicariance or dispersal of coelurosaurian faunas, influencing their evolution. Unfortunately, few coelurosaurian biogeographic hypotheses are supported by quantitative evidence. Here, we report the first, broadly-sampled quantitative analysis of coelurosaurian biogeography using the likelihood-based package BioGeoBEARS. Mesozoic geographic configurations and changes are reconstructed and employed as constraints in this analysis, including their associated uncertainties. We use a comprehensive time-calibrated coelurosaurian evolutionary tree produced from the Theropod Working Group phylogenetic data matrix. Six biogeographic models in the BioGeoBEARS package with different assumptions about the evolution of spatial distribution are tested against the geographic constraints. Our results statistically favour the DIVALIKE+J and DEC+J models, which allow vicariance and founder events, supporting continental vicariance as an important factor in coelurosaurian evolution. Ancestral range estimation indicates frequent dispersal events via the Apulian Route (connecting Europe and Africa during the Early Cretaceous) and the Bering Land Bridge (connecting North America and Asia during the Late Cretaceous). These quantitative results are consistent with commonly inferred Mesozoic dinosaurian dispersals and continental-fragmentation-induced vicariance events. In addition, we recognise the importance of Europe as a dispersal centre and gateway in the Early Cretaceous, as well as other vicariance events like those triggered by the disappearance of land-bridges.
1,512 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The origin of extant amphibians has been studied using several sources of data and methods, including phylogenetic analyses of morphological data, molecular dating, stratigraphic data, and integration of ossification sequence data, but a consensus about their affinities with other Paleozoic tetrapods has failed to emerge. We have compiled five datasets to assess the relative support for six competing hypotheses about the origin of extant amphibians: a monophyletic origin among temnospondyls, a monophyletic origin among lepospondyls, a diphyletic origin among both temnospondyls and lepospondyls, a diphyletic origin among temnospondyls alone, and two variants of a triphyletic origin, in which anurans and urodeles come from different temnospondyl taxa while caecilians come from lepospondyls and are either closer to anurans and urodeles or to amniotes. Our datasets comprise ossification sequences of up to 107 terminal taxa and up to eight cranial bones, and up to 65 terminal taxa and up to seven appendicular bones, respectively. Among extinct taxa, only two or three temnospondyl can be analyzed simultaneously for cranial data, but this is not an insuperable problem because each of the six tested hypotheses implies a different position of temnospondyls and caecilians relative to other sampled taxa. For appendicular data, more extinct taxa can be analyzed, including some lepospondyls and the finned tetrapodomorph Eusthenopteron , in addition to temnospondyls. The data are analyzed through maximum likelihood, and the AICc (corrected Akaike Information Criterion) weights of the six hypotheses allow us to assess their relative support. By an unexpectedly large margin, our analyses of the cranial data support a monophyletic origin among lepospondyls; a monophyletic origin among temnospondyls, the current near-consensus, is a distant second. All other hypotheses are exceedingly unlikely according to our data. Surprisingly, analysis of the appendicular data supports triphyly of extant amphibians within a clade that unites lepospondyls and temnospondyls, contrary to all phylogenies based on molecular data and recent trees based on paleontological data, but this conclusion is not very robust.
1,440 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The origin of angiosperms has been the focus of intensive botanical debate for well over a century. The great diversity of angiosperms in the Early Cretaceous makes the Jurassic rather expected to elucidate the origin of angiosperm. Former reports of early angiosperms are frequently based on a single specimen, making many conclusions tentative. Here, based on observations of 284 individual flowers preserved on 28 slabs in various states and orientations, we describe a fossil flower, Nanjinganthus dendrostyla gen. et sp. nov., from the South Xiangshan Formation (Early Jurassic) of China. The large number of specimens and various preservations allows us to give an evidenced interpretation of the flower. The complete enclosure of ovules in Nanjinganthus is fulfilled by a combination of an invaginated and ovarian roof. Characterized by its actinomorphic flower with a dendroid style, cup-form receptacle, and angio-ovuly, Nanjinganthus is a bona fide angiosperm from the Jurassic. Nanjinganthus re-confirms the existence of Jurassic angiosperms and provides first-hand raw data for new analyses on the origin and history of angiosperms.
1,403 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Elis Newham, Pamela G Gill, Philippa Brewer, Michael J. Benton, Vincent Fernandez, Neil J Gostling, David Haberthür, Jukka Jernvall, Tuomas Kankanpää, Aki Kallonen, Charles Navarro, Alexandra Pacureanu, Berit Zeller-Plumhoff, Kelly Richards, Kate Robson-Brown, Philipp Schneider, Heikki Suhonen, Paul Tafforeau, Katherine Williams, Ian J. Corfe
There is uncertainty regarding the timing and fossil species in which mammalian endothermy arose, with few studies of stem-mammals on key aspects of endothermy such as basal or maximum metabolic rates, or placing them in the context of living vertebrate metabolic ranges. Synchrotron X-ray imaging of incremental tooth cementum shows two Early Jurassic stem-mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium , had lifespans (a basal metabolic rate proxy) considerably longer than comparably sized living mammals, but similar to reptiles. Morganucodon also had femoral blood flow rates (a maximum metabolic rate proxy) intermediate between living mammals and reptiles. This shows maximum metabolic rates increased evolutionarily before basal rates, and that contrary to previous suggestions of a Triassic origin, Early Jurassic stem-mammals lacked the endothermic metabolism of living mammals. One Sentence Summary Surprisingly long lifespans and low femoral blood flow suggest reptile-like physiology in key Early Jurassic stem-mammals.
1,400 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Laurent Bruxelles, Dominic J Stratford, Richard Maire, Travis R Pickering, Jason L. Heaton, Amelie Beaudet, Kathleen Kuman, Robin Crompton, Kris J Carlson, Tea Jashashvili, Juliet McClymont, George M. Leader, Ronald J. Clarke
The Sterkfontein Caves has an 80 year history of yielding remarkable evidence of hominin evolution and is currently the world's richest Australopithecus-bearing site. Included in Sterkfontein's hominin assemblage is StW 573 (Little Foot). Discovered in the Member 2 deposit in the Silberberg Grotto, StW 573 represents the most complete Australopithecus skeleton yet found. Because of its importance to the fossil hominin record, the geological age of Little Foot has been the subject of significant debate. Two main hypotheses have been proposed regarding the formation and age of Member 2 and by association StW 573. The first, proposes that Member 2 formed relatively rapidly, starting to accumulate at around 2.8 million years ago and that the unit is isolated to the Silberberg Grotto - the underlying chambers and passages forming later. The second proposes that Member 2 formed slowly, its accumulation starting before 3.67 million years ago and that the deposit extends into the Milner Hall and close to the base of the cave system. Both assume a primary association between StW 573 and Member 2, although which sediments in the Silberberg Grotto are associated with Member 2 has also been questioned. Recently a third alternative hypothesis questioning the association of StW 573 to Member 2 sediments proposed a two-stage burial scenario in which sediments associated with StW 573 represent a secondary and mixed-age deposit reworked from a higher cave. The stratigraphic and sedimentological implications of these hypotheses are tested here through the application of a multiscale investigation of Member 2, with reference to the taphonomy of the Little Foot skeleton. The complete infilling sequence of Member 2 is described and depositional units are tracked across all exposures of the deposit in the Silberberg Grotto and into the Milner Hall. Facies development follows patterns characteristic of colluvially accumulated taluses with 30-40 degrees angles of repose developing coarser distal facies. Sediments are generally stratified and conformably deposited in a sequence of silty sands eroded from well-developed lateritic soils on the landscape surface. Voids, clasts and bioclasts are organized consistently across and through Member 2 according to the underlying deposit geometry, indicating a gradual deposit accretion with no distinct collapse facies evident, no successive debris flow accumulation, and only localized intra-unit post-depositional modification. The stratigraphy and sedimentology of Member 2 supports a simple single-stage accumulation process through which Member 2 partially fills the Silberberg Grotto and extends into the deeper chambers and passages of the Sterkfontein Caves. Through this work we demonstrate at multiple scales the primary association between the sediments of Member 2 and the StW 573 Little Foot skeleton.
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