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Nikkasaurus postcranial: how to work with crappy data

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It’s hard to find data on Nikkasaurus,
a tiny basal therapsid without fangs. The only data I know comes from Ivahnenko (2000) in the form of a drawing or two (Fig. 1). Earlier we looked at just the skull and how tiny it was.

Figure 1. Nikkasaurus and what little is known of its postcrania. Above, in situ. Below, tentative reconstruction. If anyone has a picture of the fossil itself, please send it.

The longer legs that made therapsids special are seen here for the phylogenetic first time. No doubt this is a product of paedomorphy as the only other basal synapsid juvenile I know of, baby Dimetrodon, also had longer legs than its adult counterpart. The difference here is the crus and antebrachium don’t appear to be very bowed between the tibia and fibula, as in Dimetrodon, but straighter, as in Biarmosuchus, a much larger fanged sister to Nikkasaurus.

The question arises,
did basal therapsids lose their fangs, only to regrow them? Or is Nikkasaurus an early offshoot and maybe a nocturnal herbivore? I think it’s the latter, but with such meager data at present, it’s hard to tell.

If anyone has more data on this little guy, please send it along!

Ivahnenko MF 2000. Cranial morphology and evolution of Permian Dinomorpha (Eotherapsida) of eastern Europe. Paleontological Journal 42(9):859-995. DOI: 10.1134/S0031030108090013


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