The origin of endothermy in synapsids and archosaurs and arms races in the Triassic

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

Abstract

Birds and mammals are key elements of modern ecosystems, and many biologists explain their great success by their endothermy, or warm-bloodedness. New palaeontological discoveries point to the origins of endothermy in the Triassic, and that birds (archosaurs) and mammals (synapsids) likely acquired endothermy in parallel. Here, a further case is made, that the emergence of endothermy in a stepwise manner began in the Late Permian but accelerated in the Early Triassic. The trigger was the profound destruction wrought by the Permian-Triassic mass extinction (PTME). In the oceans, this was the beginning of the Mesozoic Marine Revolution (MMR), and a similar revolution occurred on land, termed here the Triassic Terrestrial Revolution (TTR). Among tetrapods, both synapsids and archosaurs survived into the Triassic, but numbers were heavily depleted. However, the survivors were marked by the acquisition of endothermy, as shown by bone histology, isotopic analyses, and the acquisition of insulating pelage. Both groups before the PTME had been sprawlers; after the event they adopted parasagittal (erect) gait. The new posture and the new physiology enabled both groups to compete in their ecosystems at a faster rate than before the PTME. The new world of the Triassic was characterised by a fast-paced arms race between synapsids and archosauromorphs in which the latter, as both dinosaurs and pterosaurs, initially prevailed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date3 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • endothermy
  • birds
  • mammals
  • Triassic
  • Archosauria
  • Synapsida

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