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      Zarafasaura oceanis, a new elasmosaurid (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Maastrichtian Phosphates of Morocco and the palaeobiogeography of latest Cretaceous plesiosaurs

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      Gondwana Research

      Elsevier BV

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          Synopsis of the Extinct Batrachia, Reptilia and Aves of North America

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            The pachypleurosaurids (Reptilia: Nothosauria) from the middle triassic of Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland) with the description of a new species.

            The largest and most diverse collection of Pachypleurosauridae (Nothosauria, Reptilia) comes from Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland. Several hundred complete skeletons were collected from four distinct horizons of bituminous limestones and shales of Anisian-Ladinian boundary to early Ladinian age (Middle Triassic). Serpianosaurus mirigiolensis comes from the oldest strata, the Grenzbitumenzone Beds. The three younger strata, all in the Lower Meride Limestone, yield three species of Neusticosaurus. Neusticosaurus pusillus comes from the Cava Inferiore horizon, Neusticosaurus peyeri, new species, from the Cava Superiore horizon, and Neusticosaurus edwardsii, new combination, from the Alla Cascina horizon. Neusticosaurus pusillus is biostratigraphically important because it is one of the rare species reported from both the Germanic and the Alpine Triassic. Neusticosaurus pusillus and N. peyeri are small and very similar in their anatomy. Neusticosaurus species are easiest separated by their number of presacral vertebrae. Ornamentation of the bone surface is distinctive for all four pachypleurosaurids. Soft parts are rarely preserved, except for one partial squamation. The biological age of Neusticosaurus individuals can be determined by skeletochronology (aging by bone annuli). Small species of Neusticosaurus were sexually mature after three to four years and lived for six to nine years. Taphonomic analysis of the small species indicates attritional mortality and suggests weak bottom currents in the Monte San Giorgio basin during early Ladinian times. Morphometric comparison of all four pachypleurosaurids indicates that the changing vertebral numbers between species are largely due to a change in number of segments. All Monte San Giorgio pachypleurosaurids are sexually dimorphic in forelimb development. Sex x has poorly differentiated and relatively short humeri whereas sex y has well differentiated and relatively long humeri. The sexes are of about the same size and represented in roughly equal numbers. Identification of gender was not possible. Good growth series, especially of Neusticosaurus peyeri, from embryo to large adult permitted qualitative and quantitative study of ontogeny. The skull grows with negative allometry; the humerus grows isometrically or with positive allometry, depending on sex and species; the femur grows isometrically. The adult size range in N. peyeri is considerably larger than in modern reptiles. The Monte San Giorgio pachypleurosaurids are a monophyletic group. The phylogeny of this group is congruent with the stratigraphic distribution of its members.
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              Global interrelationships of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) and the pivotal role of taxon sampling in determining the outcome of phylogenetic analyses.

              Previous attempts to resolve plesiosaurian phylogeny are reviewed and a new phylogenetic data set of 66 taxa (67% of ingroup taxa examined directly) and 178 characters (eight new) is presented. We recover two key novel results: a monophyletic Plesiosauridae comprising Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, Hydrorion brachypterygius, Microcleidus homalospondylus, Occitanosaurus tournemirensis and Seeleyosaurus guilelmiimperatoris; and five plesiosaurian taxa recovered outside the split between Plesiosauroidea and Pliosauroidea. These taxa are Attenborosaurus conybeari, 'Plesiosaurus'macrocephalus and a clade comprising Archaeonectrus rostratus, Macroplata tenuiceps and BMNH 49202. Based on this result, a new name, Neoplesiosauria, is erected for the clade comprising Plesiosauroidea and Pliosauroidea. Taxon subsamples of the new dataset are used to simulate previous investigations of global plesiosaurian relationships. Based on these simulations, most major differences between previous global phylogenetic hypotheses can be attributed to differences in taxon sampling. These include the position of Leptocleididae and Polycotylidae and the monophyly or paraphyly of Rhomaleosauridae. On this basis we favour the results recovered by our, larger analysis. Leptocleididae and Polycotylidae are sister taxa, forming a monophyletic clade within Plesiosauroidea, indicating that the large-headed, short-necked 'pliosauromorph' body plan evolved twice within Plesiosauria. Rhomaleosauridae forms the monophyletic sister taxon of Pliosauridae within Pliosauroidea. Problems are identified with previous phylogenetic definitions of plesiosaurian clades and new, stem-based definitions are presented that should maintain their integrity over a range of phylogenetic hypotheses. New, rank-free clade names Cryptoclidia and Leptocleidia are erected to replace the superfamilies Cryptoclidoidea and Leptocleidoidea. These were problematic as they were nested within the superfamily Plesiosauroidea. The incongruence length difference test indicates no significant difference in levels of homoplasy between cranial and postcranial characters.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Gondwana Research
                Gondwana Research
                Elsevier BV
                1342937X
                June 2011
                June 2011
                : 19
                : 4
                : 1062-1073
                10.1016/j.gr.2010.10.005
                © 2011

                http://www.elsevier.com/tdm/userlicense/1.0/

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