Crocodylian Head Width Allometry and Phylogenetic Prediction of Body Size in Extinct Crocodyliforms

Haley D. O’Brien, Leigha M. Lynch, Kent A. Vliet, John Brueggen, Gregory M. Erickson and Paul M. Gignac2
Synopsis Body size and body-size shifts broadly impact life-history parameters of all animals, which has made accurate body-size estimates for extinct taxa an important component of understanding their paleobiology. Among extinct crocodylians and their precursors (e.g., suchians),several methods have been developed to predict body size from suites of hard-tissue proxies. Nevertheless, many have limited applications due to the disparity of some major suchian groups and biases in the fossil record. Here, we test the utility of head width (HW) as a broadly applicable body-size estimator in living and fossil suchians. We use a dataset of sexually mature male and female individuals (n 1⁄4 76) from a comprehensive sample of extant suchian species encompassing nearly all known taxa (n 1⁄4 22) to develop a Bayesian phylogenetic model for predicting three conventional metrics for size: body mass, snout–vent length, and total length. We then use the model to estimate size parameters for a select series of extinct suchians with known phylogenetic affinity (Montsechosuchus, Diplocynodon, and Sarcosuchus). We then compare our results to sizes reported in the literature to exemplify the utility of our approach for a broad array of fossil suchians. Our results show that HW is highly correlated with all other metrics (all R2>0.85) and is commensurate with femoral dimensions for its reliably as a body-size predictor. We provide the R code in order to enable other researchers to employ the model in their own research.