The Evolution of Pneumatic Foramina in Pterosaur Vertebrae

Abstract: Pterosaurs possess skeletal pneumatization, which can be assessed externally through the observation of pneumatic foramina. These foramina vary in position, shape, and number among taxa. Here we propose new characters referring to the position and number of pneumatic foramina present in cervical and dorsal vertebrae of pterosaurs. A cladistic analysis was performed after first-hand study of material in collections and using data from the literature in order to test these new characters for homology, and they were subsequently mapped in a strict consensus tree. The analysis resulted in nine equally parsimonious trees with 215 steps each. The strict consensus tree obtained does not present significant differences in relation to trees obtained in previous studies. The mapping performed identified that most pneumatic foramina evolved independently in several lineages, and only two of the eight added characters appeared once in the evolution of pterosaurs. In general, pneumatic foramina were more common in the Dsungaripteroidea, however, the flattened preservation of non-pterodactyloids and in the Archaeopterodactyloidea often precludes their visualization, and therefore the presence of vertebral pneumatization may be broaden with the discovery of new, better preserved specimens.

Key words
Pterosauria; phylogeny; axial skeleton; skeletal pneumatization


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