Systematics of the Pterosauria

by Andres, Brian Blake, Ph.D., YALE UNIVERSITY, 2010, 366 pages; 3440534


The pterosaurs are a diverse clade of extinct flying reptiles. Despite over two hundred years of research, there has been little resolution and much contradiction in their evolutionary relationships. This history has left pterosaur phylogeny and taxonomy in a state of conflict. A new phylogenetic analysis is conducted using all the diagnostic pterosaur species and informative characters from the history of pterosaur research to produce a more comprehensive, better resolved, and well supported statement of pterosaur phylogeny and evolutionary history. This new phylogeny is used to erect a coherent phylogenetic taxonomy of pterosaurs and a framework for future pterosaur research. The three most important names in pterosaur evolution are given phylogenetic definitions: Pterosauromorpha, Pterosauria, and Pterodactyloidea . A new pterosaur species from the under sampled terrestrial record is named, used to delineate basal pterosaur relationships, and discussed with respect to the origin of novel features within the basal pterosaurs. The new phylogeny is used to review the history of phylogenetic inference in pterosaurs and assess whether there is a current consensus. The history of pterosaur phylogenetic analysis is significantly converging on the most recent results as measured by clade congruence, character recruitment, stratigraphic congruence, and support measures. Three novel patterns from the comprehensive phylogeny are compared to the fossil record for corroboration: an early monophyletic group of pterosaurs consisting exclusively of species Triassic in age is consistent with patterns identified in adaptive radiations and is suggested to be part of the original radiation of pterosaurs; a single pterosaur lineage surviving into the Jurassic suggesting an evolutionary bottleneck is consistent with diversity estimates and the stratigraphic order of pterosaur species at the time; and a large number of non-pterodactyloid pterosaur species recovered on the lineage to the Pterodactyloidea suggests that concerted character changes within modules did not have a significant effect in the origin of the pterodactyloids.

AdviserJacques Gauthier
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsEvolution & development; Paleontology
Publication Number3440534

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