Histology of the preparietal: a neomorphic cranial element in dicynodont therapsids

Lianna M. Marilao, Zoe T. Kulik, Christian A. Sidor

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The preparietal, a neomorphic midline ossification on the skull roof, is thought to have evolved three times in therapsids, but its development and homology remain poorly understood. Here, we provide preliminary data on the histology of this element in specimens referred to Diictodon feliceps and an indeterminate species of Lystrosaurus. The preparietal has previously been noted to vary substantially in its shape on the dorsal surface of the skull in several dicynodonts, and we found similar variation in thin section. In Diictodon, the preparietal forms a prong that embeds itself entirely within the frontals and shows evidence of a midline suture anteriorly. The sectioned specimen of Lystrosaurus shows histological evidence of immaturity and features a well-defined midline suture at the posterior end of the preparietal, although an anterior prong was not present. In both taxa, the anteroventral portion of the preparietal forms a strongly interdigitating suture with the underlying frontals and parietals. More posteriorly, the preparietal is composed of fibrolamellar bone suggestive of rapid posteroventral growth. In large dicynodont species, the dorsal expression of the preparietal appears to show negative allometry compared with other cranial roofing elements during ontogeny, but the significance of this geometry is unclear. In addition, histological work is needed on the preparietal in gorgonopsians and biarmosuchians to determine whether the features characterizing dicynodonts are also seen in the other two groups of therapsids that evolved a preparietal. The therapsid preparietal provides a rare opportunity to study the development and evolution of a neomorphic cranial element in the vertebrate fossil record.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1770775
JournalJournal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Issue number2
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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