Article: The neurocranium of the stereospondyl Mastodonsaurus giganteus
Rainer R. Schoch
New and rich material of the stereospondyl amphibian Mastodonsaurus giganteus from Kupferzell in southern Germany allows for the first time a detailed study of the neurocranium of this species. Both sections and uncrushed specimens preserved in three dimensions were examined. The sphenethmoid ranges from the sella turcica region far to the anterior almost towards the nasal capsules, which remained unossified. The basisphenoid persisted as cartilage, whose morphology can be traced from imprints in surrounding bones. The otic is a single but complex element which underwent major ontogenetic changes. During development, the posterior braincase became increasingly ossified and finally formed a single, compound unit. In addition, otic and sphenethmoid are broadly co-ossified in large specimens. The basioccipital is present but rudimentary, wedged in between the exoccipital and parasphenoid and without contribution to the occipital condyles. The course of the optic, trigeminal, and facial nerves is studied in detail. The homology of the passages is assessed by means of phylogenetic arguments and comparative anatomical data, based on observations on nearest living crown groups.