Research

I spent the past few years studying pareiasaurs, an extinct clade of robust herbivorous early amniotes that thrived during the Middle to Late Permian (272-252 Ma). They were among the largest terrestrial animals to have evolved at the time, and lived alongside many of the early ‘mammal-like reptiles’. Pareiasaurs were very successful and their fossils are found distributed across Pangea in what is modern-day Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

BunoReconMLT
Reconstruction of Bunostegos akokanensis by Morgan L. Turner

My research has focused on a singular species of pareiasaur—Bunostegos akokanensis. Bunostegos was initially described as a new species by Sidor et al. (2003) from cranial material found in Niger. Further cranial work was published by Tsuji et al. (2013). In particular, my research has been on all the appendicular material that was collected with associated crania, covering:

  • First description of appendicular elements of Bunostegos
  • First postcranial ontogenetic study of a pareiasaur
  • Revised pareiasaurian phylogeny
  • Forelimb and hindlimb posture

Recently my focus has turned to the functional implications of the unique suite of morphologies found in these limb and girdle elements of Bunostegos, and has yielded exciting conclusions—evidence for the earliest 4-legged parasagittal (upright) animal! Turner et al. 2015 publication.

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Posture, from sprawling to upright, is not black or white, but instead is a gradient of forms. There are many complexities about the evolution of posture and locomotion we are working to better understand every day. The anatomy of Bunostegos is unexpected, illuminating, and tells us we still have much to learn.

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