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The plagiosaurid temnospondyl Plagiosuchus pustuliferus (Amphibia: Temnospondyli) from the Middle Triassic of Germany: anatomy and functional morphology of the skull




The cranial anatomy of the plagiosaurid temnospondyl Plagiosuchus pustuliferus, from the Middle Triassic of Germany, is described in detail on the basis of a newly discovered skull and mandibular material. The highly derived skull is characterized by huge orbitotemporal fenestrae, a reduction of the circumorbital bones – the prefrontal, postfrontal and (probably) postorbital are lost – and the expansion of the jugal to occupy most of the lateral skull margin. Ventrally the extremely long subtemporal vacuities correlate with the elongate adductor fossa of the mandible. The dentition is feebly developed on both skull and mandible. Ossified ?ceratobranchials and ‘branchial denticles’ indicate the presence of open gills clefts in life. The remarkably divergent cranial morphology of P. pustuliferus highlights the extraordinary cranial diversity within the Plagiosauridae, probably unsurpassed within the Temnospondyli. Specific structural aspects of the skull – including an extremely short marginal tooth row, feeble dentition and an elongated chamber for adductor musculature – together with evidence for a hyobranchial skeleton, suggests that P. pustuliferus utilized directed suction feeding for prey capture. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 155, 348–373.