Macroevolutionary, palaeoecological and biomechanical analyses in deep time offer the possibility to decipher the structural constraints, ecomorphological patterns and evolutionary history of extinct groups. Here, 3D comparative biomechanical analyses of the extinct giant early amphibian group of stereospondyls together with living lissamphibians and crocodiles, shows that: i) stereospondyls had peculiar palaeoecological niches with proper bites and stress patterns very different than those of giant salamanders and crocodiles; ii) their extinction may be correlated with the appearance of neosuchians, which display morphofunctional innovations. Stereospondyls weathered the end-Permian mass extinction, re-radiated, acquired gigantic sizes and dominated (semi) aquatic ecosystems during the Triassic. Because these ecosystems are today occupied by crocodilians, and stereospondyls are extinct amphibians, their palaeobiology is a matter of an intensive debate: stereospondyls were a priori compared with putative living analogous such as giant salamanders and/or crocodilians and our new results try to close this debate.
|Publication status||Published - 26 Jul 2016|