A new paper by Maisch and Kapitzke (2010) describes a mandibular fragment from a phytosaur from marine shales in England. This is supposedly the first record of a phytosaur from the Jurassic (Hettangian) as the specimen was found in-situ beneath beds that provide the lowest occurrence of the ammonoid Psiloceras. Thus some phytosaurs, in this case a marine one from Europe, purportedly survived the end-Triassic extinction.
However, as Randall Irmis (who also informed me of this paper) reminded me, this is non-sensical regarding this specimen as the base of the Jurassic is presently defined by the first appearance of Psiloceras. Thus the phytosaur bearing strata are latest Triassic in age and not Jurassic.
I'm not adverse to the possibility that some basal pseudosuchians such as phytosaurs, aetosaurs, and rauisuchians may have survived into the Triassic, especially given our poor control on the determination of the Triassic-Jurassic boundary in non-marine strata. Obviously crocodylomorphs make it through and we have no evidence for an abrupt global-wide non-marine extinction event for other pseudosuchians.
The specimen mentioned by Maisch and Kapitzke appears to currently hold the title of the "last phytosaur", but unfortunately it does not provide clear evidence for the survival of this clade past the end-Triassic.
Maisch, M. W. & Kapitzke, M. 2010. A presumably marine phytosaur (Reptilia: Archosauria) from the pre-planorbis beds (Hettangian) of England. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 257: 373–379.
Abstract: A mandibular fragment of a longirostrine archosaur is decribed from the lowermost Jurassic (pre-planorbis beds, lowermost Hettangian) of Watchet, Somerset, England. The specimen is compared to both marine crocodilians (Thalattosuchia) and phytosaurs, groups which are either unknown (Thalattosuchia) or only doubtfully represented (Phytosauria) in lowermost Jurassic strata so far. The specimen shows striking morphological similarity to the Late Triassic phytosaur Mystriosuchus, but differs from known teleosaurid and metriorhynchid thalattosuchians. It is consequently
determined as aff. Mystriosuchus. It supports previous assumptions that phytosaurs crossed the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, at least in Europe. It also provides additional evidence that at least some phytosaurs, particularly the longirostrine forms, may have been facultative marine animals. The persistence of amphibious, piscivorous, longirostrine phytosaurs in the earliest Jurassic of Europe may have hampered the distribution of the ecologically similar teleosaurids, which are not known from strata that are older than the latest Sinemurian to date.
Why are unfalsifiable beliefs so attractive?
2 days ago in Epiphenom