Variation in daily activity patterns facilitates temporal partitioning of habitat and resources among species. Knowledge of temporal niche partitioning in paleobiological systems has been limited by the difficulty of obtaining reliable information about activity patterns from fossils. On the basis of an analysis of scleral ring and orbit morphology in 33 archosaurs, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs, we show that the eyes of Mesozoic archosaurs were adapted to all major types of diel activity (that is, nocturnal, diurnal, and cathemeral) and provide concrete evidence of temporal niche partitioning in the Mesozoic. Similar to extant amniotes, flyers were predominantly diurnal; terrestrial predators, at least partially, nocturnal; and large herbivores, cathemeral. These similarities suggest that ecology drives the evolution of diel activity patterns.
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Volume 332 | Issue 6030
6 May 2011
6 May 2011
Copyright © 2011, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Received: 5 November 2010
Accepted: 16 February 2011
Published in print: 6 May 2011
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Acknowledgments: We thank D. Brinkmann, S. Carlson, I. Schwab, G. Vermeij, and P. Wainwright for comments. C. Cicero, A. Engilis, I. Engilis, D. Evans, M. Flannery, P. Holroyd, M. Koelbl-Ebert, J. McGuire, C. Mehling, M. Norell, R. Papendieck, O. Rauhut, M. Sander, K. Seymour, B. Shaffer, D. Unwin, X. Xu, and Z. Zhou granted specimen access. The project was supported by NSF grant EAR 0551024 to R.M. and Durrell Funds of the Department of Geology, University of California Davis, an M. A. Fritz Award of Royal Ontario Museum, a doctoral stipend of German Academic Exchange Service, and a postdoctoral fellowship of German Research Foundation to L.S.
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