Temporal range:
Early TriassicPresent, 250–0 Ma
Yellow-billed stork kazinga.jpg
Birds and crocodilians (in this case a yellow-billed stork and a Nile crocodile) are the only living archosaur groups.
Scientific classification e
Cope, 1869

Arctopoda Haeckel, 1895
Avesuchia Benton, 1999

Archosaurs are a group of diapsid amniotes whose living representatives consist of birds and crocodilians. This group also includes all extinct dinosaurs, extinct crocodilian relatives, and pterosaurs. Archosauria, the archosaur clade, is a crown group that includes the most recent common ancestor of living birds and crocodilians and all of its descendants. It includes two main clades: Pseudosuchia, which includes crocodilians and their extinct relatives, and Avemetatarsalia, which includes birds and their extinct relatives (such as non-avian dinosaurs and pterosaurs).

Distinguishing characteristics

Archosaurs can be distinguished from other tetrapods on the basis of several synapomorphies, or shared characteristics, first found in a common ancestor. The simplest and most widely agreed synapomorphies of archosaurs include teeth set in sockets, antorbital and mandibular fenestrae (openings in front of the eyes and in the jaw, respectively),[1] and a fourth trochanter (a prominent ridge on the femur).[2] Being set in sockets, the teeth were less likely to be torn loose during feeding. This feature is responsible for the name "thecodont" (meaning "socket teeth"),[3] which paleontologists used to apply to many Triassic archosaurs.[2] Some archosaurs, such as birds, are secondarily toothless. Antorbital fenestrae reduced the weight of the skull, which was relatively large in early archosaurs, rather like that of modern crocodilians. Mandibular fenestrae may also have reduced the weight of the jaw in some forms. The fourth trochanter provides a large site for the attachment of muscles on the femur. Stronger muscles allowed for erect gaits in early archosaurs, and may also be connected with the ability of the archosaurs or their immediate ancestors to survive the catastrophic Permian-Triassic extinction event.[citation needed]

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