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Skull joints in Sphenodon and other Rhynchocephalia (Diapsida: Lepidosauria)
 
SVPCA Conference
 
Platform presentation (20 minutes)
Authors
 
*Marc E H Jones
 
Abstract
 
The Tuatara (Sphenodon) of New Zealand is the only surviving member of the Rhynchocephalia, a group of reptiles that were widespread and diverse during the Mesozoic. Differences in skull shape, jaw proportions, tooth structure and tooth arrangement suggest that this success was associated with a diversification of feeding strategies (Jones, 2006ab). One aspect of rhynchocephalian morphology that has not previously been examined from a functional perspective is the structure of the skull joints (sutures). In life these involve soft connective tissue that influences the way in which stresses are distributed across the skull (e.g. Jaslow, 1992). Moreover, in vivo experiments on mammals demonstrate that suture morphology is affected by the stresses they experience (e.g. Moss 1961). Examination of Sphenodon skull material reveals that individual joints show a consistent morphology, but suture structure can differ dramatically between one joint and another. The overall pattern corresponds, at least in part, to the expected distribution of stresses during feeding. Fossil taxa demonstrate cranial joint morphologies not present in Sphenodon, and this correlates with differences in the anatomy of the feeding apparatus.
London 2020