Evol Ecol Res 18: 123-167 (2017)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Macroevolutionary patterns in cranial and lower jaw shape of ceratopsian dinosaurs (Dinosauria, Ornithischia): phylogeny, morphological integration, and evolutionary rates

Leonardo Maiorino1,2, Andrew A. Farke3, Tassos Kotsakis1,2 and Paolo Piras4,5

1Dipartimento di Scienze, Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy,  2Center for Evolutionary Ecology, Rome, Italy,  3Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, Claremont, California, USA,  4Dipartimento di Ingegneria Strutturale e Geotecnica, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy and   5Dipartimento di Scienze Cardiovascolari, Respiratorie, Nefrologiche, Anestesiologiche e  Geriatriche, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy

Correspondence: L. Maiorino, Department of Sciences and Center for Evolutionary Ecology, Roma Tre University, Largo S. Leonardo Murialdo 1, 00146 Rome, Italy. email: leonardo.maiorino@uniroma3.it


Organisms: Ceratopsians were herbivorous, beaked dinosaurs, ranging from 1 m to 9 m in body length, usually four-footed, and with a bony frill that extended backwards from the cranium over the nape of the neck. Known from Asia, Europe, and North America, they appeared in the Late Jurassic and persisted until the end of the Late Cretaceous.

Questions: Which evolutionary processes drive the phenotypic evolution of skulls and lower jaws within Ceratopsia? What is the degree of morphological integration between the skull and lower jaw, and between the snout and frill among clades? Finally, are there any morphological evolution rate shifts across the ceratopsian phylogeny?

Data: Photographs from 121 ceratopsian skulls and 122 lower jaws in lateral view, both from original photos and published pictures. Fifty-five ceratopsian species are represented in the sample.

Methods: We investigated cranial and lower jaw shape changes across ceratopsians applying two-dimensional geometric morphometrics. We also investigated the morphological variation of the snout and the frill. Using phylogenetic generalized least squares regression, we estimated the degree of phylogenetic signal in size and shape data, as well as in the shape–size relationship. We performed phenotypic evolutionary rate analysis on shape data to describe phenotypic shifts across the phylogeny. Using a rarefied version of Escoufier’s RV coefficient, we tested morphological integration between skulls and lower jaws, and between snouts and frills. Finally, we explored the potential link between cranial and frill shape evolution in ceratopsians and the radiation of angiosperms using a linear regression model.

Results: Skull, snout, and frill shapes differ among clades (with the exception of leptoceratopsids and protoceratopsids). Lower jaws show distinct morphologies among groups. Size and shape changes are phylogenetically structured. The frill drives the morphological variation of the skull, co-varying much more with the lower jaw than with the snout. The frill appears to evolve to co-vary better with the lower jaw in the more morphologically derived clades than in basal ones. A significant linear relationship does exist between cranial shape and angiosperm occurrences, suggesting the hypothesis that the frill evolved in response to changes in dietary compositions associated with the turnover between gymnosperms and angiosperms during the Cretaceous. Significant negative shifts in evolutionary rates characterize skull, snout, frill, and lower jaw shapes, corresponding to nodes where psittacosaurids diverge from other taxa. In contrast, a significant positive shift in skull and snout shape rate of evolution characterizes the clade Ceratopsoidea.

Conclusion: The frill is the main driving force in the overall cranial shape within Ceratopsia and evolved secondarily to better co-vary with the lower jaw to produce a more efficient masticatory apparatus. The changes in frill shape are correlated with the angiosperm diversification that occurred in the Cretaceous and thus correlated with changes in diet. Ceratopsians exhibit a slowdown in the phenotypic evolutionary rate in the Early Cretaceous and an acceleration of the phenotypic rate in the Late Cretaceous.

Keywords: Ceratopsia, evolutionary rates, geometric morphometrics, lower jaw, morphological integration, skull, angiosperms.

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