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J Evol Biol. 2007 May;20(3):1164-70.

Cope's Rule in the Pterosauria, and differing perceptions of Cope's Rule at different taxonomic levels.

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Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


The remarkable extinct flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, show increasing body size over 100 million years of the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous, and this seems to be a rare example of a driven trend to large size (Cope's Rule). The size increases continue throughout the long time span, and small forms disappear as larger pterosaurs evolve. Mean wingspan increases through time. Examining for Cope's Rule at a variety of taxonomic levels reveals varying trends within the Pterosauria as a whole, as pterodactyloid pterosaurs increase in size at all levels of examination, but rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs show both size increase and size decrease in different analyses. These results suggest that analyses testing for Cope's Rule at a single taxonomic level may give misleading results.

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