Ontogenetic data can play a prominent role in addressing questions in tetrapod evolution, but such evidence from the fossil record is often incompletely considered because it is limited to initiation of ossification, or allometric changes with increasing size. In the present study, specimens of a new species of an archaic amphibian (280 Myr old), Acheloma n. sp., a member of the temnospondyl superfamily Dissorophoidea and the sister group to Amphibamidae, which is thought to include at least two of our modern amphibian clades, anurans and caudatans (Batrachia), provides us with new developmental data. We identify five ontogenetic events, enabling us to construct a partial ontogenetic trajectory (integration of developmental and transformation sequence data) related to the relative timing of completion of neurocranial structures. Comparison of the adult amphibamid morphology with this partial ontogeny identifies a heterochronic event that occurred within the neurocranium at some point in time between the two taxa, which is consistent with the predictions of miniaturization in amphibamids, providing the first insights into the influence of miniaturization on the neurocranium in a fossil tetrapod group. This study refines hypotheses of large-scale evolutionary trends within Dissorophoidea that may have facilitated the radiation of amphibamids and, projected forward, the origin of the generalized batrachian skull. Most importantly, this study highlights the importance of integrating developmental and transformation sequence data, instead of onset of ossification alone, into investigations of major events in tetrapod evolution using evidence provided by the fossil record, and highlights the value of even highly incomplete growth series comprised of relatively late-stage individuals.

Evolution and Development
Department of Earth Sciences

Maddin, H, Reisz, R.R. (Robert R.), & Anderson, J.S. (Jason S.). (2010). Evolutionary development of the neurocranium in Dissorophoidea (Tetrapoda: Temnospondyli), an integrative approach. Evolution and Development, 12(4), 393–403. doi:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2010.00426.x