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The Maurosodontidea are a large order of reptiles, descended from modern day tegus. They have only recently appeared in the late Basilozoic, but have greatly diversified since then. Maurosodontids fill many of the niches left by the mammalian Carnivorans and Cetaceans during the present Holocene epoch, and remain a remarkably successful order for millions of years.
Temporal range: 88 - 276 MyF
Evolution and Characteristics Edit
Maurosodontids can trace their evolution back to the tegus of the Teiidae family. It is believed that the progenitors of the Maurosodontids, the Teiimorphs, evolved into the first Maurosodontids around the late Megistian. As time went on, the small reptiles migrated to new ecosystems, where they evolved into bigger, more predatory roles than their ancestors. The Maurosodontids can be divided into two suborders; the Optosteonia, who retained their ancestral sclerotic ring, and the Anoptosteonia, who lost the sclerotic ring.
Over time, the hip structure of their tegu ancestors changed to accommodate a more active lifestyle, eventually shifting so as to allow basal Maurosodontids to be able to stand with their body lifted from the ground, while advanced Maurosodontids keep their bodies completely upright.
A trait that Maurosodontids have retained from their teiid ancestors is their heterodont dentition; pointed incisor teeth at the front, shearing canine teeth behind the first incisors, a second pair of flattened, razor-sharp incisors, and blunt molars as the rearmost teeth. This variation in tooth design allows Maurosodontids to diversify into a number of different ecological niches and diets; an example of this would be the hylecolids, which are much more omnivorous than their close relatives, with some species almost being exclusively herbivorous.
One of the most significant evolutionary traits of Maurosodontids is the presence of middle ear bones, a once distinctly mammalian trait. Over the Maurosodontids' natural history, the dentary bone became enlarged, until the articular and angular bones separated from the mandible and connected to the stapes, in a similar manner to the quadrate and articular of mammals. This grants them the ability to hear high frequencies, sometimes well into the ultrasonic range, whereas their Squamate ancestors can only hear fairly low frequencies.
This suborder consists of most families of Maurosodontid. They're characterized by the lack of a sclerotic ring in the eyes, hence the name "no eye bone". These Maurosodontids fill the roles of modern day Carnivorans, the main apex predators of the present day. Anoptosteonians are further classified by the infraorders Eomaurosodontia, which includes more basal forms, and Neomaurosodontia, which includes more advanced forms.
This family includes the progenitors of other families. They are much larger and bulkier than their relatives, with the largest growing up to 8.8 meters (29 feet) long, and weighing over a quarter of a ton. Unlike their relatives, members of this group have larger, shorter snouts and stronger skulls. The largest members are apex predators, eating anything that they can swallow, from large herbivores to smaller predators. Members of this family are mostly solitary, only commercing during breeding. However, some species show social behavior during adolescence, with siblings creating groups together, up until becoming solitary at sexual maturity. This eliminates the possibility of being eaten, and increases most powerful vandilism evah! the chances of offspring surviving.
Most members of this superfamily have smaller clutches, of up to 40, though some species can have over 90 eggs. Like their smaller relatives, they build nests, but females also defend them, chasing away any predators that are looking to devour the eggs.
While they reigned as the apex predators for many millennia, they eventually were displaced and driven to extinction by other, much more advanced families, all of which were descended from them, by 125 MyF.
Aptly named "wolf-like", Lycosiformids are characterized by being digitigrade (or semi-digitigrade), cursorial predators with lean builds. While smaller species are generally close to the size of a coyote or small wolf, the largest are larger than lions, and can stand as tall as a man. They have significantly larger heads and necks in comparison to other families, as they use their teeth to catch prey, rather than their claws, a trait shared with mammalian carnivores, such as the creodonts. To counteract this large head, they have a long, stiff tail that balances out the weight and keeps the center of gravity at the fore and hind limbs. Lycosiformids are intelligent animals with highly developed social hierarchies, with share many similarities to their Canine namesakes. In general, groups consists of around 15-25 individuals led by an alpha breeding pair, and social hierarchies by maintained through complex communication and cooperation on par with, or even more advanced, than their mammalian counterparts.
Closely related to Lycosiformids, Crocutiformids are named after the latin name for the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, which most species resemble. Unlike Lycosiformids, Crocutiformids have short legs and a much shorter, stiffer tail, so they are poorly built for running and chasing down prey. They are also not nearly as gregarious, either being solitary or living in small groups, so they cannot hunt the variety of prey Lycosiformids can. While some species are hunters, they are better built to be scavengers and opportunists; they have strong, conical teeth that can break through bone, as well as a well developed sense of smell, which is used to track down meat from many distances. These hunters are very well adapted to survive periods of food shortages and hardship, requiring less sustenance than other families, and thus they can thrive in arid areas where food is scarce.
Hylecolids are arboreal, flexible Maurosodontids that share similar roles to civets and euplerids, although they have a larger size range. Unlike other families, Hylecolids are hyper carnivores, and while they mainly eat meat, most species supplement their diet with fungi, fruits or other plant material. These creatures are often solitary, with the exception of a mated pair and their offspring, and are usually nocturnal, when predators and most competition are inactive. Hylecolids are also some of the only Maurosodontids that can be found outside of the Borealian supercontinent, with species being found on the large island off the coast of Africa that was once the land east of the Great Rift Valley.
Taking the niches of modern day bears and big cats, Sarxivenatorids are the largest known Maurosodontids, and the largest predatory quadrupeds of all time. Usually hunting the largest prey items, Sarxivenatorids range from the smallest species of 7.6 meters (24 feet) and 1,025 lbs (465 kgs), to the largest of around 15.2 meters (49 feet) and 8.8 tons (9,000 kgs), making them around the same size as even the largest theropod dinosaurs. Unlike other families, these macro-predators have strong, well-developed claws that are also used to capture prey, similar to big cats, although they also have strong jaw muscles that can be used to capture prey as well. While smaller species are more gregarious, the larger species are often solitary animals, having little need for aid in hunting prey, although family groups are common.
Veloxigottisids are by far the most specialized of the Maurosodontids. Unlike the predatory Sarxivenatorids or Lycosiformids, these are pure insectivores, filling up similar niches to modern day anteaters, pangolins, and numbats. They are ill adapted for hunting, having small heads with tiny, ineffective teeth. However, they are well adapted for hunting insects and raiding the nests of termites and ants; strong, clawed hands used to cut open entrances, and a long, sticky tongue used to lap up insects, hence their name. Despite their specialization, these are remarkably successful animals, being found throughout Borealia.
This suborder includes the aquatic Maurosodontids and their ancestors. Members of this suborder are characterized by retaining the sclerotic bone in the eyes. Although terrestrial Optosteonians were pushed to extinction by their more adaptable Anoptosteonian relatives, some species would evolve into aquatic apex predators, filling the niches of cetaceans and large sharks.
This family contains the smaller, more primitive species. They are named for their distinguishable, long, thin snouts and delicate skull. The members of this group have two different type of teeth; sharp, needle-like teeth, used to grip prey, and long fangs, used for delivering venom, a trait basal Maurosodontids developed. These species are well adapted for eating small prey, such as fish, insects, birds, and mammals, although the larger species can hunt down much larger prey. Members of this family have primitive social structures, with some species living and hunting in groups of up to a dozen members, while others live in smaller groups, of up to three individuals. Other species are mostly solitary, only commencing in the breeding season. Species in this family lay up to 100 eggs or so, and can build large nests to protect them from the elements and predators. While they had success in the order's earlier millennia, by 103 MyF they were pushed to extinction by their stronger Anoptosteonian relatives, while surviving species evolved into the Protoneustesids.
These are a "transitional" group between the terrestrial Optosteonians and the fully aquatic Optosteonians, having traits from both groups; a more streamlined body, and a tail morphed into the shape of a primitive paddle, as well as feet developed into flippers, but they are still oviparous, and thus need to return to land to breed. Though they are still capable of moving on land, they are much clumsier than their ancestors, and as such are more adapted to move throughout the water. Because of their adaptations, they fill niches similar to crocodilians and pinnipeds, hunting either animals that come to drink at the water's edge or aquatic animals in shallow waters. This is also the family where electroreception develops, which is used to find prey hiding underneath sand or in crevices.
This family consists of the first purely aquatic Maurosodontids, having lost their ancestors' ability to return to land. Neustesophisids have advanced on the adaptations of their Protonuestesid ancestors' adaptations; their paddle has turned into a hypocercal caudal fin, and the flippers have turned into true fins, allowing them to be more efficient swimmers. They are also viviparous, with mothers giving birth to a litter of pups that are cared for by the entire pod. However, their range is limited to shallower waters, such as coastal mangroves or shelf seas. This is because they still have a basal dentition that only allows them to eat smaller prey items, such as fish or crustaceans. They also lack adaptations that allow them to swim more efficiently, such as a dorsal fin. Because of their more primitive design, they are unable to adapt quickly enough to a changing world, and as such are outcompeted by more advanced forms.
Electrostromia is an infraorder within Optosteonia characterized by the development of the electrostroma, a mass of tissue found in the foreheads of all Electrostromians, similar to the melon in cetaceans. Unlike the cetacean melon, however, this tissue both magnifies and focuses on electrical fields, granting Electrostromians a very refined sense of electroreception, on par with or even surpassing those of sharks.
Delphisaurids are the first of the pelagic Maurosodontids, filling similar niches to sharks and, as their name implies, dolphins. It is in this family that the first dorsal fins appear, and Delphisaurids also develop reduced hind-fins, and a more lunate caudal fin. These adaptations allow Delphisaurids to become faster swimmers, much more so than their ancestors, and thus can diversify across the world's oceans. Most Delphisaurids, unlike their ancestors, are highly social creatures, living in pods of up to 25, even 30 in some animals. These Maurosodontids can hunt a wide range of fish, invertebrates, and even other marine reptiles, although they rarely hunt very large prey.
Like the Delphisaurids, Cetisaurids are considered the first advanced Optosteonians, having all of the same adaptations that allow them to diverse. Unlike Delphisaurids, however, Cetisaurids are more like raptorial sperm whales than dolphins, growing to gigantic sizes, and hunting even the largest prey. Most species have highly advanced electroreception systems, with thousands of sensitive electroreceptors throughout the body, like their Delphisaurid relatives. Having a cosmopolitan range, Cetisaurids serve as apex predators of their environments, consuming fish, Halilycosaurs, and even other Optosteonians.
Named for their elongated, toothless beaks, anadontids are adapted for hunting smaller, soft-bodied prey items, such as cephalopods and fish. Similar to the beaked whales of the Holocene, these Electrostromians are also able to dive to extreme depths, where there is an abundance of prey to be found. As they are often preyed by larger oceanic predators, such as Halilycosaurs and Cetisaurids, anadontids are also highly maneuverable, just as their Delphisaurid relatives are.