JOURNAL ARTICLE

The oldest caseid synapsid from the Late Pennsylvanian of Kansas, and the evolution of herbivory in terrestrial vertebrates

Robert R Reisz, Jörg Fröbisch
PloS One 2014, 9 (4): e94518
24739998
The origin and early evolution of amniotes (fully terrestrial vertebrates) led to major changes in the structure and hierarchy of terrestrial ecosystems. The first appearance of herbivores played a pivotal role in this transformation. After an early bifurcation into Reptilia and Synapsida (including mammals) 315 Ma, synapsids dominated Paleozoic terrestrial vertebrate communities, with the herbivorous caseids representing the largest vertebrates on land. Eocasea martini gen. et sp. nov., a small carnivorous caseid from the Late Carboniferous, extends significantly the fossil record of Caseidae, and permits the first clade-based study of the origin and initial evolution of herbivory in terrestrial tetrapods. Our results demonstrate for the first time that large caseid herbivores evolved from small, non-herbivorous caseids. This pattern is mirrored by three other clades, documenting multiple, independent, but temporally staggered origins of herbivory and increase in body size among early terrestrial tetrapods, leading to patterns consistent with modern terrestrial ecosystem.

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