Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences

Research Article

Skeletal development of the temnospondyl Acanthostomatops vorax from the Lower Permian Döhlen Basin of Saxony

Florian Witzmanna1 and Rainer R. Schocha2

a1 Museum für Naturkunde, Institut für Paläontologie, Invalidenstraβe 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany. Email:

a2 Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Rosenstein 1, 70191 Stuttgart, Germany. Email:


The development of the skeleton of the small temnospondyl Acanthostomatops vorax is described, based on 32 specimens from the Lower Rotliegend of Niederhäslich in Saxony. Both individually and ontogenetically, the skull table, length of gape, and dentition of the parasphenoid are broadly variable. The stapes has a short and straight shaft and a well-defined two-headed proximal region. Small specimens have three or four pairs of ossified ceratobranchials in the gill region, while the adult hyobranchium is composed of four pairs of hypobranchials and probably some additional elements. The postcranium is characterised by a stout and well-ossified humerus that is already large in small larvae, a minute rectangular interclavicle, a robust but short femur, a relatively short trunk with 21–22 presacrals and a moderate tail with 28 vertebrae. In adults, the trunk skeleton became proportionally shorter and the femur smaller with respect to skull length. Metamorphosis is best indicated by the disappearance of the larval gill skeleton, which was probably resorbed, while the structure of the limbs and axial skeleton as well as the absence of lateral line sulci suggest a terrestrial existence for adults.

(Received November 14 2005)

(Accepted July 12 2006)


  • Hyobranchium;
  • metamorphosis;
  • ontogeny;
  • postcranium;
  • Rotliegend;
  • skull;
  • variability;
  • Zatracheidae