Phytosaur skull

I don’t tend to cover things like phytosaurs simply because I don’t know much about them, rather than that I don’t find them interesting. Writing posts at the rate I do (generally close to 6 a week) means I try to stick to things I know well to save me doing much (if any) background reading on the issue at hand. Still, I do get pangs of guilt about not delving into other archosaurian lineages and especially the wealth of interesting things from the Triassic like phyosaurs, aetosaurs and rauisuchians, though this is somewhat alleviated by the presence of blogs like Chinleana which tend to avoid saurischians and pterosaurs and favour these guys, so the information is out there.

Despite the name, phytosaurs were not herbivores or indeed anything like really, but crocodile, even gaharial, analogues. Long snapping jaws with numerous sub-cylindrical teeth made many species ideal piscivores and the rest of the body was very like that of modern crocodylians. Here is a classic phytosaur skull (though I’m sorry I don’t know which taxon it belongs to) on display in Stuttgart that was too nice to ignore, even if I can’t say much about it, or the group as a whole.

7 Responses to “Phytosaur skull”

  1. 1 Taylor Duane Reints 14/11/2010 at 3:04 pm

    I’m not hooked into phytosaurs that much but based upon your picture I believe its a Nicrosaurus but I’m not completely sure.

  2. 2 Bill Parker 14/11/2010 at 4:10 pm

    That is Nicrosaurus kapffi. One characteristic of that taxon is the elongate, rugose crest along the entire length of the snout (mostly premaxillae). Nicrosaurus is generally considered to be closely related to the pseudopalatine phytosaurs from North America. Pseudopalatines differ from other phytosaurs in possessing a wide postorbitosquamosal bar and supratemporal fenestra that are reduced (i.e. slit-like) in dorsal view. Having seen casts of this specimen and other referred specimens at the British Museum of Natural History I am not entirely convinced of the relationship between Nicrosaurus and Pseudopalatus because the post temporal arcades are pretty different, although this relationship is supported by current phylogenetic analyses.

  3. 4 Jeffrey Martz, PhD 14/11/2010 at 7:05 pm

    Some additional and irrelevant information: in pre-cladistic days, up until about the 80s (and a while after for some workers) it was common practice to assign North American phytosaurs to Nicrosaurus if they were crested, creating the impression that the taxon has a wide geographic distribution. Other work, especially by Charles Camp and Joeseph Gregory, found characters of the temporal region to be more taxonomically informative, which is important as both Camp and Gregory were able to divide different crested forms stratigraphically. The importance of the temporal characters have been confirmed by most recent phylogenetic analysis (starting with Ballew 1989). Important results of Ballew’s study include that 1) crests have a wide distirbution around the phytosaur family tree, with crested and non-crested forms often being sister taxa (this may indicate they are sexual dimorphs), 2) that most individual phytosaur taxa have provincial distributions, with NONE of the North American and European taxa being shared with the possible exception of Paleorhinus/Parasuchus (although the unity of that taxon is being questioned as well), and 3) that the North American forms separate nicely stratigraphically once they are separated based on the temporal characters. The use of phytosaurs to separate what are now called the “Late Triassic land vertebrate faunachrons” has a longer history than some workers would like you to believe.

  4. 6 Anna 15/11/2010 at 10:22 am

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  5. 7 DDeden 19/11/2010 at 12:49 am

    OMG a flying crocodactyle?

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