Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences

Research Article

Cranial morphology and ontogeny of the Permo-Carboniferous temnospondyl Archegosaurus decheni Goldfuss, 1847 from the Saar–Nahe Basin, Germany

Florian Witzmanna1

a1 Museum für Naturkunde, Institut für Paläontologie, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Morphology and ontogenetic changes in the skull and hyobranchium of the Permo-Carboniferous temnospondyl Archegosaurus decheni from the Saar–Nahe Basin (SW Germany) are described in detail, based on 181 skulls ranging from 18 to 279 mm in length. Three-dimensional skull reconstructions including the palate of different growth stages are provided. The extremely elongate choanae and up to four median symphyseal teeth are unique to A. decheni. Among neurocranial elements, the exoccipital is well ossified and forms the paroccipital process as in stereospondyls. The shaft of the stapes which projects into the squamosal embayment grows with positive allometry and possesses a distinct lateral process. The basibranchial is well ossified in adults and exhibits a complex, spoon-like morphology. Small larvae were euryphagous and used non-directed suction and jaw prehension during prey capture. Larger larvae and adults were mainly ichthyophagous, as is indicated by the increasingly elongated snout, differentiation of marginal teeth, and nutrition remains. After a prolonged larval period, juvenile and adult A. decheni remained in the aquatic habitat, as suggested by the presence of lateral line sulci, the ‘aquatic type’ of septomaxilla and choana, and the absence of a nasolacrimal duct.

(Received December 08 2004)

(Accepted June 28 2005)


  • cranium;
  • feeding;
  • hyobranchium;
  • ontogeny;
  • Temnospondyli