Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

Can maxillary canal morphology inform varanopid phylogenetic affinities?

Julien Benoit, David P. Ford, Juri A. Miyamae, and Irina Ruf

Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 66 (2), 2021: 389-393 doi:

Varanopidae have historically been classified as members of the basal synapsid grade “Pelycosauria”. However, recent phylogenetic works proposed that varanopids may in fact belong to the Diapsida. Here, we use μCT scanning and digital 3D reconstruction to compare the maxillary canal of the early diapsid Orovenator mayorum, the basal archosauromorph Prolacerta broomi, the ophiacodontid “pelycosaur” Varanosaurus acutrostris, and the varanopid Heleosaurus scholtzi. We find that the maxillary canals of Orovenator and Prolacerta are very similar and differ markedly from those of Heleosaurus and Varanosaurus. In the latter two, the morphology of the maxillary canal closely matches that of the Therapsida, which could support the traditional position of varanopids among the Synapsida.

Julien Benoit [] and David P. Ford [], Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) and School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, PO Wits, 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa. Juri A. Miyamae [], Department of Geology & Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Irina Ruf [], Abteilung Messelforschung und Mammalogie, Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Frankfurt, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (for details please see, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.