Background: Little is known about the long-term patterns of body size evolution in Crocodylomorpha, the > 200-million-year-old group that includes living crocodylians and their extinct relatives. Extant crocodylians are mostly large-bodied (3-7 m) predators. However, extinct crocodylomorphs exhibit a wider range of phenotypes, and many of the earliest taxa were much smaller (< 1.2 m). This suggests a pattern of size increase through time that could be caused by multi-lineage evolutionary trends of size increase or by selective extinction of small-bodied species. In this study, we characterise patterns of crocodylomorph body size evolution using a model fitting-approach (with cranial measurements serving as proxies). We also estimate body size disparity through time and quantitatively test hypotheses of biotic and abiotic factors as potential drivers of crocodylomorph body size evolution. Results: Crocodylomorphs reached an early peak in body size disparity during the Late Jurassic, and underwent essentially continually decreases in disparity since then. A multi-peak Ornstein-Uhlenbeck model outperforms all other evolutionary models fitted to our data (including both uniform and non-uniform), indicating that the macroevolutionary dynamics of crocodylomorph body size are better described within the concept of an adaptive landscape, with most body size variation emerging after shifts to new macroevolutionary regimes (analogous to adaptive zones). We did not find support for a consistent evolutionary trend towards larger sizes among lineages (i.e., Cope's rule), or strong correlations of body size with climate. Instead, the intermediate to large body sizes of some crocodylomorphs are better explained by group-specific adaptations. In particular, the evolution of a more aquatic lifestyle (especially marine) correlates with increases in average body size, though not without exceptions. Conclusions: Shifts between macroevolutionary regimes provide a better explanation of crocodylomorph body size evolution than do climatic factors, suggesting a central role for lineage-specific adaptations rather than climatic forcing. Shifts leading to larger body sizes occurred in most aquatic and semi-aquatic groups. This, combined with extinctions of groups occupying smaller body size regimes (particularly during the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic), gave rise to the upward-shifted body size distribution of extant crocodylomorphs compared to their smaller-bodied terrestrial ancestors.
- Downloaded 1,267 times
- Download rankings, all-time:
- Site-wide: 19,839
- In paleontology: 38
- Year to date:
- Site-wide: 134,626
- Since beginning of last month:
- Site-wide: 148,811
Downloads over time
Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide
- 27 Nov 2020: The website and API now include results pulled from medRxiv as well as bioRxiv.
- 18 Dec 2019: We're pleased to announce PanLingua, a new tool that enables you to search for machine-translated bioRxiv preprints using more than 100 different languages.
- 21 May 2019: PLOS Biology has published a community page about Rxivist.org and its design.
- 10 May 2019: The paper analyzing the Rxivist dataset has been published at eLife.
- 1 Mar 2019: We now have summary statistics about bioRxiv downloads and submissions.
- 8 Feb 2019: Data from Altmetric is now available on the Rxivist details page for every preprint. Look for the "donut" under the download metrics.
- 30 Jan 2019: preLights has featured the Rxivist preprint and written about our findings.
- 22 Jan 2019: Nature just published an article about Rxivist and our data.
- 13 Jan 2019: The Rxivist preprint is live!