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      Old African fossils provide new evidence for the origin of the American crocodiles

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          Abstract

          Molecular and morphological phylogenies concur in indicating that the African lineages formerly referred to Crocodylus niloticus are the sister taxon the four Neotropical crocodiles ( Crocodylus intermedius, C. moreleti, C. acutus and C. rhombifer), implying a transoceanic dispersal from Africa to America. So far the fossil record did not contribute to identify a possible African forerunner of the Neotropical species but, curiously, the oldest remains referred to the African C. niloticus are Quaternary in age, whereas the oldest American fossils of Crocodylus are older, being dated to the early Pliocene, suggesting that another species could be involved. We re-described, also thanks to CT imaging, the only well-preserved topotipic skull of Crocodylus checchiai Maccagno, 1947 from the late Miocene (Messinian) African site of As Sahabi in Libya. As previously suggested on the basis of late Miocene material from Tanzania, C. checchiai is a valid, diagnosable species. According to our phylogenetic analyses, C. checchiai is related to the Neotropical taxa and could be even located at the base of their radiation, therefore representing the missing link between the African and the American lineages.

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          PHYLOGENETICAPPROACHESTOWARDCROCODYLIANHISTORY

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            Climate constrains the evolutionary history and biodiversity of crocodylians

            The fossil record of crocodylians and their relatives (pseudosuchians) reveals a rich evolutionary history, prompting questions about causes of long-term decline to their present-day low biodiversity. We analyse climatic drivers of subsampled pseudosuchian biodiversity over their 250 million year history, using a comprehensive new data set. Biodiversity and environmental changes correlate strongly, with long-term decline of terrestrial taxa driven by decreasing temperatures in northern temperate regions, and biodiversity decreases at lower latitudes matching patterns of increasing aridification. However, there is no relationship between temperature and biodiversity for marine pseudosuchians, with sea-level change and post-extinction opportunism demonstrated to be more important drivers. A ‘modern-type' latitudinal biodiversity gradient might have existed throughout pseudosuchian history, and range expansion towards the poles occurred during warm intervals. Although their fossil record suggests that current global warming might promote long-term increases in crocodylian biodiversity and geographic range, the 'balancing forces' of anthropogenic environmental degradation complicate future predictions.
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              Crocodylian diversity peak and extinction in the late Cenozoic of the northern Neotropics.

              Northern South America and South East Asia are today's hotspots of crocodylian diversity with up to six (mainly alligatorid) and four (mainly crocodylid) living species respectively, of which usually no more than two or three occur sympatrically. In contrast, during the late Miocene, 14 species existed in South America. Here we show a diversity peak in sympatric occurrence of at least seven species, based on detailed stratigraphic sequence sampling and correlation, involving four geological formations from the middle Miocene to the Pliocene, and on the discovery of two new species and a new occurrence. This degree of crocodylian sympatry is unique in the world and shows that at least several members of Alligatoroidea and Gavialoidea coexisted. By the Pliocene, all these species became extinct, and their extinction was probably related to hydrographic changes linked to the Andean uplift. The extant fauna is first recorded with the oldest Crocodylus species from South America.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                massimo.delfino@unito.it
                dawid.iurino@uniroma1.it
                Journal
                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2045-2322
                23 July 2020
                23 July 2020
                2020
                : 10
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2336 6580, GRID grid.7605.4, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, , Università di Torino, ; Via Valperga Caluso 35, 10125 Turin, Italy
                [2 ]GRID grid.7080.f, Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, , Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ; Edifici ICTA-ICP, Carrer de les Columnes s/n, Campus de la UAB, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona Spain
                [3 ]GRID grid.7841.a, PaleoFactory, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, , Sapienza Università di Roma, ; Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma, Italy
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1757 3630, GRID grid.9027.c, Dipartimento di Fisica e Geologia, , Università degli Studi di Perugia, ; Via A. Pascoli, 06123 Perugia, Italy
                [5 ]GRID grid.7841.a, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Strutturale e Geotecnica, , Sapienza Università di Roma, ; 00184 Roma, Italy
                [6 ]Center for Evolutionary Ecology, Largo S. Leonardo Murialdo 1, 00146 Roma, Italy
                [7 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1757 2304, GRID grid.8404.8, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Paleo[Fab]Lab, , Università di Firenze, ; Via G. La Pira 4, 50121 Florence, Italy
                [8 ]GRID grid.7841.a, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, , Sapienza Università di Roma, ; Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma, Italy
                Article
                68482
                10.1038/s41598-020-68482-5
                7378212
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Funding
                Funded by: Generalitat de Catalunya (CERCA Program)
                Award ID: CGL2016-76431-P
                Funded by: Fondi di Ateneo (Università degli Studi di Firenze) and NGS
                Award ID: 8788-10
                Funded by: Fondi di Ateneo (Sapienza Università di Roma) 2015 Finisterrae
                Award ID: C26A153RNH
                Funded by: Grants Sapienza PaleoFactory Lab
                Award ID: (A.C. 07.04.010)
                Categories
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                © The Author(s) 2020

                Uncategorized

                palaeontology, zoology, biogeography

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