Triassic Marine Reptile Had Incredible Long Tail

Triassic Marine Reptile Had Incredible Long Tail

From a Chinese skeleton, paleontologists discovered a new species and genus of long-tailed Pachypleurosaur.

Artist's impression: Wumengosaurus is a sister taxon to Honghesaurus longicaudal. Nobu Tamura, CC-BY-SA 4.0. Image Credit

Artist’s impression WumengosaurusThe sister taxon is Honghesaurus longicaudal. Image Credit: Nobu Tamura/CC BY-SA 4.

Dobbed Honghesaurus longicaudalisThe newly identified species was alive during the Middle Triassic period (approximately 244 million years ago).

The prehistoric creature belongs to Pachypleurosauroidea, a group of small to medium-sized, lizard-like marine reptiles that thrived from the Early to Middle Triassic.

“In the Triassic almost all of Earth’s landmasses had been combined in the supercontinent of Pangea which was surrounded by a vast Ocean of Panthalassa,” stated Professor Guang-Hui Xu and his colleagues. They are researchers with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Guang-Hui Xu.

“An arm, the Tethys of the ocean, invaded deep into the middle of Pangea at its equator.

The only known pachypleurosaurs come from the Tethys Ocean. Its potential diet could include soft-bodied invertebrates, such as cephalopods and shrimps, along with small and juvenile fishes.

“The earliest and most primitive pachypleurosaurs can been traced back to the Early Triassic of the eastern Tethys realm. In the Middle Triassic this clade experienced rapid radiation. It was represented by five genera from Europe and eight from the eastern Tethys.

Honghesaurus longicaudalis It was quite small, at 47 cm long.

“Based on its body size Honghesaurus longicaudal This is consistent with other pachypleurosaurs, which are smaller-sized and rarely exceed 50cm in length,” said the paleontologists.

Honghesaurus longicaudalis, holotype. Image credit: Xu et al., doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-11309-2.

Honghesaurus longicaudalis, holotype. Credit to Xu The authors and others., doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-11309-2.

A fossilized skeleton Honghesaurus longicaudalis It was found in the Guanling Formation, Luxi, Yunnan and South China, in 2021.

Researchers stated that the specimen was “impressively preserved” and represented one of the best skeletons of Pachypleurosaurs from Middle Triassic Luoping Lagerstatte, or Biota.

This Lagerstatte is renowned for its exceptional preservation and taxonomic richness. It includes abundant invertebrates and fishes as well as marine reptiles, plants and invertebrates. Later fieldwork expanded its distribution to the Luxi in eastern Yunnan.

Honghesaurus longicaudal A long, slender trunk with a very long tail.

This species is the only long-tailed, fully 121 vertebral pachypleurosaur.

“In general, morphology is the most striking feature in Honghesaurus longicaudal “Its incredibly long tail measures 117% of its precaudal height,” scientists stated.

The entire vertebral column is made up of 121 vertebrae. This number represents the highest known figure in this group.

“The anterior tip of the snout is higher than that of most other pachypleurosaurs.”

Honghesaurus longicaudal They said that they would have used mainly lateral undulation of trunk and tail to propel watercraft.”

The authors claim that Honghesaurus longicaudal Fills in the gap in morphology between two previously identified pachypleurosaurs Qianxisaurus From the Xingyi Bi-ta Wumengosaurus From the Panxian Biologica.

“The discovery and preservation of Honghesaurus longicaudal “This provides an important addition to our understanding of the ecology, morphological diversity and aquatic locomotion in pachypleurosaurs,” said they.

“Phylogenetic studies unite Honghesaurus, Qianxisaurus And Wumengosaurus As a monophyletic Clade, it is above European Pachypleurosaurid Clades. It provides new insight into the interrelationships within this group.”

Our scenario of pachypleurosaurian phylogeny and stratigraphic data suggest that the Tethys Ocean served as a corridor west for the dispersal of pachypleurosaurids between Europe and South China.

Discovering the existence of Honghesaurus longicaudal It is discussed in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.


G.H. Xu The authors and others. 2022. An ancient Chinese marine reptile with a long tail provides insights into Middle Triassic radiation from pachypleurosaurs. Sci Rep 12, 7396; doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-11309-2

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