Pterosaurs were a successful group of Mesozoic flying reptiles. They were the first vertebrate group to achieve powered flight and varied enormously in morphology and ecology, occupying a variety of niches and developing specialized feeding strategies. Ecomorphological principles suggest this variation should be reflected by great morphological diversity in the lower jaw, given that the mandible served as the primary apparatus for prey acquisition. Here we present the first study of mandibular shape disparity in pterosaurs and aim to characterize major aspects of variation.We use a combination of geometric morphometric approaches, incorporating both outline analysis using elliptical Fourier analysis and semilandmark approaches. Our results show that morphological convergence is prevalent and many pterosaurs, belonging to diverse dietary groups and subclades, overlap in morphospace and possessed relatively simple ‘rod-shaped’ jaws. There is no clear trend of size distributions in pterosaur mandibular morphospace, and larger forms are widely distributed. Additionally, there is limited functional signal within pterosaur lower jaw morphospace. Instead, the development of a large anterior ventral crest represents the major component of disparity. This suggests that a socio-sexual trait was a key driver for innovation in pterosaur lower jaw shape.
- Geometric morphometrics