Bever & Norell, 2017
A new rhynchocephalian is described based on a recently discovered and well-preserved specimen from the Late Jurassic (Kimmeridgian) marine limestones of Solnhofen, Bavaria. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the new taxon as the sister group to Pleurosauridae, a small radiation of rhynchocephalians representing the oldest marine invasion of crown-clade Lepidosauria. The relatively strong evidence for this taxonomically exclusive lineage, within a generally volatile rhynchocephalian tree, places the new taxon in a position to inform the early history of the pleurosaur transition to the sea. The early steps in this transition are distributed throughout the skeleton and appear to increase hydrodynamic efficiency for both swimming and aquatic feeding. This early history may also have included a global truncation of plesiomorphic ontogenetic trajectories that left a number of skeletal features with reduced levels of ossification/fusion. The exact degree to which Vadasaurus had adopted an aquatic ecology remains unclear, but the insight it provides into the origin of the enigmatic pleurosaurs exemplifies the potential of Rhynchocephalia for generating and informing broad-based questions regarding the interplay of development, morphology, ecology and macroevolutionary patterns.
KEYWORDS: Bavaria, marine reptile, secondarily aquatic, skeletal development, sphenodon, tiatethys
Lepidosauria Haekel, 1866
Rhynchocephalia Günther, 1867
Vadasaurus herzogi gen. et sp. no.
Etymology: Generic name from the Latin vadare ‘to go forth’, which is also the root of ‘to wade’—refers to the taxon's hypothesized phylogenetic position near the proximal end of a terrestrial-to-marine transformation series that produced the aquatic pleurosaurs—and saurus ‘lizard’. The specific epithet honours the celebrated Bavarian film-maker Werner Herzog for his continuing exploration of the relationship between life and time.
Holotype: AMNH FARB 32768, a nearly complete and largely articulated skeleton (figures 1–3). Like most specimens preserved in lithographic limestone, it exhibits compressional effects that include the flattening and shearing of composite structures and the slight displacement of certain elements. Individual bones, however, are preserved largely in three dimensions.
Gabriel S. Bever and Mark A. Norell. 2017. A New Rhynchocephalian (Reptilia: Lepidosauria) from the Late Jurassic of Solnhofen (Germany) and the Origin of the Marine Pleurosauridae. Royal Society Open Science. 4(11):170570 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170570
The fossil was recovered from Kimmeridgian-aged (a subdivision of the Late Jurrasic) marine limestones in the Solnhofen municipality of Bavaria, Germany. They belong to an up until now unknown species dubbed Vadasaurus herzogi, and belongs to the Rhynchocephalia lizard order, a close relative of a small group of ancient reptiles called pleourosaurs (genus Pleurosaurus).
Fossilized ancient lizard shows how dinos evolved to live in the oceanszmescience.com/science/ancient-lizard-dino-evolve-ocean-0432/ @zmescience