Temporal range: Early - Middle Triassic, 249.7–237 Ma
Skull of Shansisuchus shansisuchus at the Paleozoological Museum of China. Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Reptilia Node: Archosauriformes Family: †Erythrosuchidae
Erythrosuchidae (meaning "red crocodiles") are a family of large basal archosauromorph carnivores that lived from the later Early Triassic (Olenekian) to the early Middle Triassic (Anisian). Their fossil remains are known so far from South Africa (Beaufort Group of the Karoo Basin), the Perm region of Russia, and China. They were the apex predators of their day, with lengths of 2.5 to over 5 meters.
Erythrosuchids were unusually large and robust archosaurs. Several features set them apart from other archosauriformes and are also seen in later, more derived archosaurs. For example, they lack teeth on the palate, which are found in other early archosauriformes such as Doswellia and euparkeriids. In erythrosuchids, the centra (central parts of vertebrae) are deeply indented on either side, differing considerably from the usual cylindrical shape of the centra in other early archosauriformes, but similar to later archosaurs.
The heads of erythrosuchids are generally large and deep. One distinguishing feature of erythrosuchids is the shape of the margin of their upper jaw. In all erythrosuchids, the lower margin of the premaxilla, the bone at the tip of the upper jaw, is higher than the lower margin of the maxilla, the bone behind the premaxilla. This forms a characteristic "step" which makes erythrosuchids easily distinguishable from all other early archosauriformes, which have smooth jaw margins that are either straight or gradually curved.
Erythrosuchids are notable for being the first archosauriforms to have a triradiate pelvic girdle with three projecting areas formed from three bones: an illium and an elongated pubis and ischium. Although it is small, the fourth trochanter, an ridge on the femur that serves as a muscle attachment in archosaurs, first appears in erythrosuchids. The triradiate pelvis and fourth trochanter are both features which inticate that erythrosuchids had an erect stance similar to later archosaurs. More basal archosauriforms such as proterosuchids lacked these features and probably had a more sprawling posture.
Erythrosuchids were formerly classified as thecodonts of the suborder Proterosuchia. This classification is no longer used by paleontologists, who now employ a cladistic approach. In this, erythrosuchids constitute an Archosauriformes clade that is an outgroup to the Archosauria proper. The presence of certain archosaurian features such as the triradiate pelvic girdle, the fourth trochanter, and the third metatarsal longer than the fourth, indicate that erythrosuchids are closer to the true archosaurs than the Proterosuchidae, which lack these features. Thus the Erythrosuchidae occupy a transitional evolutionary position between the most primitive archisauriformes and more advanced Triassic archosaurs.
Genus Status Age Location Description Images Valid. Middle Triassic. Eastern Europe. Valid. Early Triassic. South Africa.
Valid. Early Triassic. China. Valid. Early Triassic. Eastern Europe. Valid. Middle Triassic. China.
Valid. Middle Triassic. Eastern Europe.
The large contemporary kannemeyeriid dicynodonts doubtless constituted much of erythrosuchids' prey. However, the first erythrosuchids appear in the fossil record slightly earlier than the kannemeyeriids do, so it must be assumed that they also fed on other animals as well.
- ^ a b c Parrish, J.M. (1992). "Phylogeny of the Erythrosuchidae". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 12 (1): 93–102.
- ^ "Erythrosuchidae". Palaeos. http://www.palaeos.com/Vertebrates/Units/270Archosauromorpha/270.400.html#Erythrosuchidae. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- ^ Sues, H.-D.; and Fraser, N.C. (2010). "Early and early Middle Triassic in Gondwana". Triassic Life on Land: The Great Transition. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 19–36. ISBN 023113522X, 9780231135221.
- Benton, M. J. (2000), Vertebrate Paleontology, 2nd Ed. Blackwell Science Ltd (2004) 3rd edition
- Carroll, R. L. (1988), Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, WH Freeman & Co.
Crurotarsi Archosaurs Avemetatarsalia and
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