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J Anat. 2017 Jun;230(6):752-765. doi: 10.1111/joa.12605. Epub 2017 Mar 29.

Feeding biomechanics of Late Triassic metoposaurids (Amphibia: Temnospondyli): a 3D finite element analysis approach.

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Centre de Recherches en Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnements, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
Institut Català de Paleontologia M. Crusafont. Z building, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain.
Centrum für Naturkunde, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
Steinmann-Institut, Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
Department of Biosystematics, University of Opole, Opole, Poland.


The Late Triassic freshwater ecosystems were occupied by different tetrapod groups including large-sized anamniotes, such as metoposaurids. Most members of this group of temnospondyls acquired gigantic sizes (up to 5 m long) with a nearly worldwide distribution. The paleoecology of metoposaurids is controversial; they have been historically considered passive, bottom-dwelling animals, waiting for prey on the bottom of rivers and lakes, or they have been suggested to be active mid-water feeders. The present study aims to expand upon the paleoecological interpretations of these animals using 3D finite element analyses (FEA). Skulls from two taxa, Metoposaurus krasiejowensis, a gigantic taxon from Europe, and Apachesaurus gregorii, a non-gigantic taxon from North America, were analyzed under different biomechanical scenarios. Both 3D models of the skulls were scaled to allow comparisons between them and reveal that the general stress distribution pattern found in both taxa is clearly similar in all scenarios. In light of our results, both previous hypotheses about the paleoecology of these animals can be partly merged: metoposaurids probably were ambush and active predators, but not the top predators of these aquatic environments. The FEA results demonstrate that they were particularly efficient at bilateral biting, and together with their characteristically anteropositioned orbits, optimal for an ambush strategy. Nonetheless, the results also show that these animals were capable of lateral strikes of the head, suggesting active hunting of prey. Regarding the important skull size differences between the taxa analyzed, our results suggest that the size reduction in the North American taxon could be related to drastic environmental changes or the increase of competitors. The size reduction might have helped them expand into new ecological niches, but they likely remained fully aquatic, as are all other metoposaurids.


Apachesaurus ; Metoposaurus ; Late Triassic; ecomorphology; paleoecology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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