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The cranial anatomy of Chinese placodonts and the phylogeny of Placodontia (Diapsida: Sauropterygia)


Neenan, James M; Li, Chun; Rieppel, Olivier; Scheyer, Torsten M (2015). The cranial anatomy of Chinese placodonts and the phylogeny of Placodontia (Diapsida: Sauropterygia). Zoological journal of the Linnean Society, 175(2):415-428.

Abstract

Placodonts are Triassic marine reptiles that inhabited the eastern and western margins of the Tethys Ocean (modern
South China and Europe/Middle East). Although the crania of European taxa are relatively well understood, those
of Chinese taxa have not been extensively studied, and most of them have not been incorporated into a compre-
hensive phylogeny. Here we present the first reconstructions of all known Chinese placodont holotype skulls using
micro-computed tomographic (μCT) scanning and/or detailed anatomical study. We also present the first phylogenetic
analyses that incorporate all placodont genera using a general diapsid matrix that includes postcranial charac-
ters, and a placodont-only cranial matrix. Results vary between the matrices; however, both support a monophyletic
Placodontia with eastern taxa interspaced throughout, indicating no major separation between the eastern and
western Tethyan realms. Support is strong for a western Tethyan origin of Placodontia, although the highly nested
Placochelyidae first appear in the upper Middle Triassic of the eastern Tethys. Thus, all placodont clades appear
to have originated in a period of intense speciation during the Middle Triassic.

Abstract

Placodonts are Triassic marine reptiles that inhabited the eastern and western margins of the Tethys Ocean (modern
South China and Europe/Middle East). Although the crania of European taxa are relatively well understood, those
of Chinese taxa have not been extensively studied, and most of them have not been incorporated into a compre-
hensive phylogeny. Here we present the first reconstructions of all known Chinese placodont holotype skulls using
micro-computed tomographic (μCT) scanning and/or detailed anatomical study. We also present the first phylogenetic
analyses that incorporate all placodont genera using a general diapsid matrix that includes postcranial charac-
ters, and a placodont-only cranial matrix. Results vary between the matrices; however, both support a monophyletic
Placodontia with eastern taxa interspaced throughout, indicating no major separation between the eastern and
western Tethyan realms. Support is strong for a western Tethyan origin of Placodontia, although the highly nested
Placochelyidae first appear in the upper Middle Triassic of the eastern Tethys. Thus, all placodont clades appear
to have originated in a period of intense speciation during the Middle Triassic.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Paleontological Institute and Museum
Dewey Decimal Classification:560 Fossils & prehistoric life
Language:English
Date:25 April 2015
Deposited On:21 May 2015 11:52
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:15
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0024-4082
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/zoj.12277

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