The Early Evolutionary History and Adaptive Radiation of the Pterosauria
Phylogenetic analyses of early pterosaur species are relatively new and contradictory. However, they imply a similar evolutionary history for early pterosaurs: a large divergence of all major early groups of pterosaurs before the first named pterosaur species appeared in the fossil record. This large, unsampled divergence may be a record of the initial adaptive radiation of the pterosaurs, but a recent comprehensive phylogenetic analysis reconstructs named Triassic pterosaur species grouped together in a monophyletic clade with all other major groups diverging later. Ten patterns that characterize adaptive radiations put forward by Gavrilets and Losos (2009) are assessed for congruence with the comprehensive phylogeny and two previous phylogenies to determine which are consistent with our notions of an adaptive radiation. Of the eight patterns that can be applied to pterosaurs, only six vary between pterosaur phylogenies. Of these six patterns, all apply to the three phylogenies with varying amounts of support For many patterns, however, the comprehensive phylogeny has a greater magnitude, shorter time span, or is the only topology within which they can be assessed. Pterosaurs are characterized by an adaptive radiation no matter which phylogeny is considered, but congruence with the fossil record increases the support and information content of a phylogeny by reducing the time and area within which to reconstruct evolutionary history.