CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

Beijing, China

CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

Beijing, China
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Bi S.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Bi S.,Indiana University of Pennsylvania | Wang Y.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Guan J.,Beijing Natural History Museum | And 2 more authors.
Nature | Year: 2014

The phylogeny of Allotheria, including Multituberculata and Haramiyida, remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals. Here we report three new species of a new clade, Euharamiyida, based on six well-preserved fossils from the Jurassic period of China. These fossils reveal many craniodental and postcranial features of euharamiyidans and clarify several ambiguous structures that are currently the topic of debate. Our phylogenetic analyses recognize Euharamiyida as the sister group of Multituberculata, and place Allotheria within the Mammalia. The phylogeny suggests that allotherian mammals evolved from a Late Triassic (approximately 208 million years ago) Haramiyavia-like ancestor and diversified into euharamiyidans and multituberculates with a cosmopolitan distribution, implying homologous acquisition of many craniodental and postcranial features in the two groups. Our findings also favour a Late Triassic origin of mammals in Laurasia and two independent detachment events of the middle ear bones during mammalian evolution. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Long J.A.,Flinders University | Long J.A.,Tallinn University of Technology | Long J.A.,Natural History Museum in London | Long J.A.,Australian National University | And 3 more authors.
Nature | Year: 2015

Reproduction in jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes) involves either external or internal fertilization. It is commonly argued that internal fertilization can evolve from external, but not the reverse. Male copulatory claspers are present in certain placoderms, fossil jawed vertebrates retrieved as a paraphyletic segment of the gnathostome stem group in recent studies. This suggests that internal fertilization could be primitive for gnathostomes, but such a conclusion depends on demonstrating that copulation was not just a specialized feature of certain placoderm subgroups. The reproductive biology of antiarchs, consistently identified as the least crownward placoderms and thus of great interest in this context, has until now remained unknown. Here we show that certain antiarchs possessed dermal claspers in the males, while females bore paired dermal plates inferred to have facilitated copulation. These structures are not associated with pelvic fins. The clasper morphology resembles that of ptyctodonts, a more crownward placoderm group, suggesting that all placoderm claspers are homologous and that internal fertilization characterized all placoderms. This implies that external fertilization and spawning, which characterize most extant aquatic gnathostomes, must be derived from internal fertilization, even though this transformation has been thought implausible. Alternatively, the substantial morphological evidence for placoderm paraphyly must be rejected.

Xu X.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Pol D.,CONICET
Journal of Systematic Palaeontology | Year: 2014

Archaeopteryx, which has often been considered the earliest avialan, is an iconic species, central to our understanding of bird origins. However, a recent parsimony-based phylogenetic study shifted its position from within Avialae, the group that contains modern birds, to Deinonychosauria, the sister-taxon to Avialae. Subsequently, probability-based methods were applied to the same dataset, restoring Archaeopteryx to basal Avialae, suggesting these methods should be used more often in palaeontological studies. Here we review two key issues: arguments recently advocated for the usefulness of probability-based methodologies in the phylogenetic reconstruction of basal birds and their close relatives, and support for different phylogenetic hypotheses. Our analysis demonstrates that Archaeopteryx represents a challenging taxon to place in the phylogenetic tree, but recent discoveries of derived theropods including basal avialans provide increased support for the deinonychosaurian affinities of Archaeopteryx. Most importantly, we underscore that methodological choices should be based on the adequacy of the assumptions for particular kinds of data rather than on the recovery of preferred or generally accepted topologies, and that certain probability methods should be interpreted with caution as they can grossly overestimate character support. © 2013 Natural History Museum.

Andres B.,University of South Florida | Clark J.,George Washington University | Xu X.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology
Current Biology | Year: 2014

The pterosaurs were a diverse group of Mesozoic flying reptiles that underwent a body plan reorganization, adaptive radiation, and replacement of earlier forms midway through their long history, resulting in the origin of the Pterodactyloidea, a highly specialized clade containing the largest flying organisms. The sudden appearance and large suite of morphological features of this group were suggested to be the result of it originating in terrestrial environments, where the pterosaur fossil record has traditionally been poor [1, 2], and its many features suggested to be adaptations to those environments [1, 2]. However, little evidence has been available to test this hypothesis, and it has not been supported by previous phylogenies or early pterodactyloid discoveries. We report here the earliest pterosaur with the diagnostic elongate metacarpus of the Pterodactyloidea, Kryptodrakon progenitor, gen. et sp. nov., from the terrestrial Middle-Upper Jurassic boundary of Northwest China. Phylogenetic analysis confirms this species as the basalmost pterodactyloid and reconstructs a terrestrial origin and a predominantly terrestrial history for the Pterodactyloidea. Phylogenetic comparative methods support this reconstruction by means of a significant correlation between wing shape and environment also found in modern flying vertebrates, indicating that pterosaurs lived in or were at least adapted to the environments in which they were preserved. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Xu X.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Mackem S.,U.S. National Institutes of Health
Current Biology | Year: 2013

It is widely accepted that birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs, but there is an apparent conflict: modern birds have been thought to possess only the middle three fingers (digits II-III-IV) of an idealized five-digit tetrapod hand based on embryological data, but their Mesozoic tetanuran dinosaur ancestors are considered to have the first three digits (I-II-III) based on fossil evidence. How could such an evolutionary quirk arise? Various hypotheses have been proposed to resolve this paradox. Adding to the confusion, some recent developmental studies support a I-II-III designation for avian wing digits whereas some recent paleontological data are consistent with a II-III-IV identification of the Mesozoic tetanuran digits. A comprehensive analysis of both paleontological and developmental data suggests that the evolution of the avian wing digits may have been driven by homeotic transformations of digit identity, which are more likely to have occurred in a partial and piecemeal manner. Additionally, recent genetic studies in mouse models showing plausible mechanisms for central digit loss invite consideration of new alternative possibilities (I-II-IV or I-III-IV) for the homologies of avian wing digits. While much progress has been made, some advances point to the complexity of the problem and a final resolution to this ongoing debate demands additional work from both paleontological and developmental perspectives, which will surely yield new insights on mechanisms of evolutionary adaptation. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Wu X.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Athreya S.,Texas A&M University
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2013

In 1978, a nearly complete hominin fossil cranium was recovered from loess deposits at the site of Dali in Shaanxi Province, northwestern China. It was subsequently briefly described in both English and Chinese publications. Here we present a comprehensive univariate and nonmetric description of the specimen and provide comparisons with key Middle Pleistocene Homo erectus and non-erectus hominins from Eurasia and Africa. In both respects we find affinities with Chinese H. erectus as well as African and European Middle Pleistocene hominins typically referred to as Homo heidelbergensis. Specifically, the Dali specimen possesses a low cranial height, relatively short and arched parietal bones, an angled occipital bone, and a nonprominent articular tubercle relative to the preglenoid surface all of which distinguish it from Afro/European Middle Pleistocene Homo and align it with Asian H. erectus. At the same time, it displays a more derived morphology of the supraorbital torus and supratoral sulcus and a thinner tympanic plate than H. erectus, a relatively long upper (lambda-inion) occipital plane with a clear separation of inion and opisthocranion, and an absolute and relative increase in brain size, all of which align it with African and European Middle Pleistocene Homo. Finally, traits such as the form of the frontal keel and the relatively short, broad midface align Dali specifically with other Chinese specimens from the Middle Pleistocene and Late Pleistocene, including H. erectus, and differentiate these from the Afro/European specimens of this time period. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

O'Connor J.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology
Current Biology | Year: 2016

Jingmai O'Connor studies the evolution of early birds and birdlike dinosaurs.

Xu G.H.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Flying fishes are extraordinary aquatic vertebrates capable of gliding great distances over water by exploiting their enlarged pectoral fins and asymmetrical caudal fin. Some 50 species of extant flying fishes are classified in the Exocoetidae (Neopterygii: Teleostei), which have a fossil record no older than the Eocene. The Thoracopteridae is the only pre-Cenozoic group of non-teleosts that shows an array of features associated with the capability of over-water gliding. Until recently, however, the fossil record of the Thoracopteridae has been limited to the Upper Triassic of Austria and Italy. Here, we report the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved fossils of a new thoracopterid flying fish from the Middle Triassic of China, which represents the earliest evidence of an over-water gliding strategy in vertebrates. The results of a phylogenetic analysis resolve the Thoracopteridae as a stem-group of the Neopterygii that is more crown-ward than the Peltopleuriformes, yet more basal than the Luganoiiformes. As the first record of the Thoracopteride in Asia, this new discovery extends the geographical distribution of this group from the western to eastern rim of the Palaeotethys Ocean, providing new evidence to support the Triassic biological exchanges between Europe and southern China. Additionally, the Middle Triassic date of the new thoracopterid supports the hypothesis that the re-establishment of marine ecosystems after end-Permian mass extinction is more rapid than previously thought.

Qu Q.,Uppsala University | Haitina T.,Uppsala University | Zhu M.,CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology | Ahlberg P.E.,Uppsala University
Nature | Year: 2015

Enamel, the hardest vertebrate tissue, covers the teeth of almost all sarcopterygians (lobe-finned bony fishes and tetrapods) as well as the scales and dermal bones of many fossil lobe-fins. Enamel deposition requires an organic matrix containing the unique enamel matrix proteins (EMPs) amelogenin (AMEL), enamelin (ENAM) and ameloblastin (AMBN). Chondrichthyans (cartilaginous fishes) lack both enamel and EMP genes. Many fossil and a few living non-teleost actinopterygians (ray-finned bony fishes) such as the gar, Lepisosteus, have scales and dermal bones covered with a proposed enamel homologue called ganoine. However, no gene or transcript data for EMPs have been described from actinopterygians. Here we show that Psarolepis romeri, a bony fish from the the Early Devonian period, combines enamel-covered dermal odontodes on scales and skull bones with teeth of naked dentine, and that Lepisosteus oculatus (the spotted gar) has enam and ambn genes that are expressed in the skin, probably associated with ganoine formation. The genetic evidence strengthens the hypothesis that ganoine is homologous with enamel. The fossil evidence, further supported by the Silurian bony fish Andreolepis, which has enamel-covered scales but teeth and odontodes on its dermal bones made of naked dentine, indicates that this tissue originated on the dermal skeleton, probably on the scales. It subsequently underwent heterotopic expansion across two highly conserved patterning boundaries (scales/head-shoulder and dermal/oral) within the odontode skeleton. © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

A humerus and a coracoid from the Early Eocene Wasatch Formation in the Washakie Basin of south-western Wyoming are the oldest materials (by ~2 million years) of the pelecaniform Limnofregata (Aves) and represent a new large species, Limnofregata hutchisoni sp. nov. This fossil is the oldest known member of the frigatebird lineage. Other than its large size relative to Limnofregata azygosternon and L. hasegawai, the new material is very similar morphologically to other known Limnofregata specimens. The size of this new species is comparable to the largest living species (e.g. Fregata minor and Fregata magnifiscens) and much larger than the two described species of Limnofregata. This fossil indicates that the hard minimum date previously advocated for molecular calibration of the split between Fregatidae and Suloidea is an underestimate by approximately two million years. The presence of early pelecaniform bird lineages (represented by Limnofregata and Masillastega) in limnic ecosystems prior to their known occurrences in marine deposits/habitats appears to indicate that some clades of pelecaniform birds may have undergone an evolutionary transition from freshwater to marine habitats in a pattern reminiscent of what has been suggested during the evolution of pinnipeds or that their palaeoecology included broader niches ranging across a variety of aquatic habitats. That transition in habitat occupation and the origin of many of the characteristic biological aspects present in the crown frigatebird clade likely occurred during a significant temporal gap (> 45 million years) in the fossil record of the frigatebird lineage after these earliest occurrences in the Early Eocene and before the oldest records of the extant Fregata species in the Pleistocene. © The Palaeontological Association.

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