Cranial bosses of choerosaurus dejageri (therapsida, therocephalia): Earliest evidence of cranial display structures in eutheriodonts.
Public Library of Science
Choerosaurus dejageri, a non-mammalian eutheriodont therapsid from the South African late Permian (∼259 Ma), has conspicuous hemispheric cranial bosses on the maxilla and the mandible. These bosses, the earliest of this nature in a eutheriodont, potentially make C. dejageri a key species for understanding the evolutionary origins of sexually selective behaviours (intraspecific competition, ritualized sexual and intimidation displays) associated with cranial outgrowths at the root of the clade that eventually led to extant mammals. Comparison with the tapinocephalid dinocephalian Moschops capensis, a therapsid in which head butting is strongly supported, shows that the delicate structure of the cranial bosses and the gracile structure of the skull of Choerosaurus would be more suitable for display and low energy combat than vigorous head butting. Thus, despite the fact that Choerosaurus is represented by only one skull (which makes it impossible to address the question of sexual dimorphism), its cranial bosses are better interpreted as structures involved in intraspecific selection, i.e. low-energy fighting or display. Display structures, such as enlarged canines and cranial bosses, are widespread among basal therapsid clades and are also present in the putative basal therapsid Tetraceratops insignis. This suggests that sexual selection may have played a more important role in the distant origin and evolution of mammals earlier than previously thought. Sexual selection may explain the subsequent independent evolution of cranial outgrowths and pachyostosis in different therapsid lineages (Biarmosuchia, Dinocephalia, Gorgonopsia and Dicynodontia).
SOUTH-AFRICA, BURNETIAMORPH THERAPSIDA, SEXUAL SELECTION, Therapsida, ANATOMY, Permian Period, Evolution, Skull, COLLAGEN ARRAYS, BIARMOSUCHIA, MORPHOLOGY, PATTERNS, RECONSTRUCTION
Benoit, J. et al. 2016. Cranial bosses of choerosaurus dejageri (therapsida, therocephalia): Earliest evidence of cranial display structures in eutheriodonts. PLoS ONE 11(8):e0161457