The cranial morphology of Greererpeton burkemorani Romer (Amphibia: Temnospondyli)

Authors

  • T. R. SMITHSON

    1. Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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    • *Department of Zoology, The University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, U.K.


Abstract

The skull of Greererpeton burkemorani Romer, a temnospondyl amphibian from the Upper Mississippian at Greer, West Virginia is described. A detailed account of the stapes of a Mississippian amphibian is given for the first time and its function is discussed. It is suggested that the stapes formed the principal element of support for the back of the braincase and resisted potential dislocation of the otico-occipital region from the skull roof during contraction of the hypaxial musculature.

Greererpeton is included in the Colosteidae and an amended diagnosis of the family is given. Erpetosaurus differs from Colosteus, Greererpeton and Pholidogaster in the pattern of bones in the skull roof and palate, the dentition and the otic region and, consequently, it is removed from the Colosteidae. The Temnospondyli are considered to be a monophyletic group characterized by the development of a connection between the dorsal portion of the occipital arch, the exoccipital bones, and the skull roof. The loxommatids are removed from the Temnospondyli as they retain the plesiomorphic condition of braincase attachment which relies exclusively on derivatives of the auditory capsules.

On the basis of similarities in the structure of the braincase, palate and manus it is suggested that microsaurs are the collateral descendants (sister group) of temnospondyls. This relationship may account for the large number of similarities in the three living groups of Amphibia: Anura are generally believed to have descended from temnospondyls, while the Urodela and Apoda are often considered to have descended from microsaurs. These systematic conclusions endorse the recent suggestions that neither the Lepospondyli nor the Labyrinthodontia are natural groups, and both terms should be abandoned.

Ancillary