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Article: Tetrapod postural shift estimated from Permian and Triassic trackways

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 52
Part: 5
Publication Date: September 2009
Page(s): 1029 1037
Author(s): Tai Kubo and Michael J. Benton
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How to Cite

KUBO, T., BENTON, M. J. 2009. Tetrapod postural shift estimated from Permian and Triassic trackways. Palaeontology52, 5, 1029–1037.

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The end-Permian mass extinction, 252 million years (myr) ago, marks a major shift in the posture of tetrapods. Before the mass extinction, terrestrial tetrapods were sprawlers, walking with their limbs extended to the sides; after the event, most large tetrapods had adopted an erect posture with their limbs tucked under the body. This shift had been suspected from the study of skeletal fossils, but had been documented as a long process that occupied some 15–20 myr of the Triassic. This study reads posture directly from fossil tracks, using a clear criterion for sprawling vs erect posture. The track record is richer than the skeletal record, especially for the Early and Middle Triassic intervals, the critical 20 myr during which period the postural shift occurred. The shift to erect posture was completed within the 6 myr of the Early Triassic and affected both lineages of medium to large tetrapods of the time, the diapsids and synapsids.
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