Predatory synapsid ecomorphology signals growing dynamism of late Palaeozoic terrestrial ecosystems

Suresh A. Singh*, Armin Elsler, Thomas L. Stubbs, Emily J. Rayfield, Michael J. Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Terrestrial ecosystems evolved substantially through the Palaeozoic, especially the Permian, gaining much new complexity, especially among predators. Key among these predators were non-mammalian synapsids. Predator ecomorphology reflect interactions with prey and competitors, which are key controls on carnivore diversity and ecology. Therefore, carnivorous synapsids may offer insight on wider ecological evolution as the first complex, tetrapod-dominated, terrestrial ecosystems formed through the late Palaeozoic. Using morphometric and phylogenetic comparative methods, we chart carnivorous synapsid trophic morphology from the latest Carboniferous to the earliest Triassic (307-251.2 Ma). We find a major morphofunctional shift in synapsid carnivory between the early and middle Permian, via the addition of new feeding modes increasingly specialised for greater biting power or speed that captures the growing antagonism and dynamism of terrestrial tetrapod predator-prey interactions. The further evolution of new hypo- and hypercarnivorous synapsids highlight the nascent intrinsic pressures and complexification of terrestrial ecosystems across the mid-late Permian.
Original languageEnglish
Article number201
JournalCommunications Biology
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many thanks to Christine Janis, David Button, Daniela Schmidt, and Stephen Brusatte for providing constructive commentary. We thank our reviewers, David Grossnickle, Jun Liu, and Megan Whitney for their helpful comments, which greatly improved this paper. We also thank Dmitry Bogdanov, T. Michael Keesey, and Felipe Alves Elias (https://www.paleozoobr.com/) for permitting academic use of their excellent artwork. Funded in part by the NERC BETR grant NE/P013724/1 and ERC grant 788203 (Innovation) to M.J.B., NERC grant NE/L002434/1 to A.E., and NERC grants NE/P013724/1 to T.L.S., A.E., and S.A.S.

Funding Information:
Many thanks to Christine Janis, David Button, Daniela Schmidt, and Stephen Brusatte for providing constructive commentary. We thank our reviewers, David Grossnickle, Jun Liu, and Megan Whitney for their helpful comments, which greatly improved this paper. We also thank Dmitry Bogdanov, T. Michael Keesey, and Felipe Alves Elias ( https://www.paleozoobr.com/ ) for permitting academic use of their excellent artwork. Funded in part by the NERC BETR grant NE/P013724/1 and ERC grant 788203 (Innovation) to M.J.B., NERC grant NE/L002434/1 to A.E., and NERC grants NE/P013724/1 to T.L.S., A.E., and S.A.S.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

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