Just out | Structure of the nasal region of non-mammalian cynodonts and mammaliaforms: Speculations on the evolution of mammalian endothermy @ Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Just out @ Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Structure of the nasal region of non-mammalian cynodonts and mammaliaforms: Speculations on the evolution of mammalian endothermy


A. W. Crompton, T. Owerkowicz, B.-A. S. Bhullar & C. Musinsky


Nasal regions of the non-mammalian cynodonts Massetognathus, Probainognathus, and Elliotherium were reconstructed from micro-computed tomography scans and compared with scans and published accounts of more derived forms, including Brasilitherium, Morganucodon, Haldanodon, and extant mammals. The basic structure of the modern mammalian nose, already present in non-mammalian cynodonts of the Early Triassic, underwent little modification during the Triassic. A respiratory chamber opened into a nasopharyngeal passage through an enlarged primary choana bordered posteriorly by a transverse lamina that formed the floor to a more posterior olfactory chamber. Cartilaginous respiratory turbinals initially provided a surface for evaporative cooling during periods of increased activity in the exceptionally high ambient temperatures of the Triassic. A similar mechanism for heat loss is present in extant crocodilians, squamates, and mammals. In the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic non-mammaliaform cynodonts (Elliotherium) and mammaliaforms (Morganucodon), the pterygopalatine ridges behind the hard secondary palate extended ventrally and formed the lateral walls to a narrow nasopharynx, as pterygoid hamuli do in extant mammals. Ridges in this position suggest the presence of a palatopharyngeus muscle in late non-mammaliaform cynodonts that could hold the larynx in an intranarial position during rest or low activity levels to prevent inhaled air from entering the oral cavity, thus allowing cartilaginous respiratory turbinals to assume an additional role as temporal countercurrent exchange sites for heat and water conservation. Ossification of respiratory turbinals in mammals enhanced their efficiency for conserving heat and water at rest, as well as their ability to dissipate heat during thermal stress.

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Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)