Field of Science

Two New Triassic Temnospondyl Papers in the Journal Palaeontology

Witzmann, F., Schoch, R. R., Hilger, A., and N. Kardjilov. 2012. Braincase, palatoquadrate and ear region of the plagiosaurid Gerrothorax pulcherrimus from the Middle Triassic of Germany. Palaeontology 55:31-50. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01116.x

Abstract - The complete neurocranium plus palatoquadrate of the plagiosaurid temnospondyl Gerrothorax pulcherrimus from the Middle Triassic of Germany is described for the first time, based on outer morphological observations and micro-CT scanning. The exoccipitals are strong elements with paroccipital processes and well-separated occipital condyles. Anterolaterally, the exoccipitals contact the otics, which are mediolaterally elongated and have massive lateral walls. The otics contact the basisphenoid, which shows well-developed sellar processes. Anteriorly, the basisphenoid is continuous with the sphenethmoid region. In its posterior portion, the sphenethmoid gives rise to robust, laterally directed laterosphenoid walls, a unique morphology among basal tetrapods. The palatoquadrate is extensively ossified. The quadrate portion overlaps the descending lamina of squamosal and ascending lamina of pterygoid anteriorly, almost contacting the epipterygoid laterally. The epipterygoid is a complex element and may be co-ossified with otics and laterosphenoid walls. It has a broad, sheet-like footplate and a horizontally aligned ascending process that contacts the laterosphenoid walls. The degree of ossification of the epipterygoid, however, is subject to individual variation obviously independent from ontogenetic changes. The stapes of Gerrothorax is a large, blade-like element that differs conspicuously from the plesiomorphic temnospondyl condition. It has a prominent anterolateral projection which has not been observed in other basal tetrapods. Morphology of neurocranium and palatoquadratum of Gerrothorax most closely resembles that of the Russian plagiosaurid Plagiosternum danilovi, although the elements are less ossified in the latter. The extensive endocranial ossification of Gerrothorax is consistent with the general high degree of ossification in the exo- and endoskeleton of this temnospondyl and supports the view that a strong endocranial ossification cannot be evaluated as a plesiomorphic character in basal tetrapods.

Dias-da-Silva, S., Sengupta, D. P., Cabriera, S. F., and L. R. Da Silva. 2012. The presence of Compsocerops (Brachyopoidea: Chigutisauridae) (Late Triassic) in southern Brazil with comments on chigutisaurid palaeobiogeography. Palaeontology 55:163-172. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01120.x

Abstract - Chigutisauridae is the longest-lived trematosaurian clade (from early Triassic to early Cretaceous). They were reported in Argentina, Australia, India and South Africa. This contribution reports a putative chigutisaurid specimen in the Carnian of southern Brazil (Santa Maria Formation, Paraná Basin). The material comprises two skull fragments, a mandibular fragment, a clavicular blade and a humerus. Ontogenetic features point to an early development stage of the specimen. The presence of a long, straight and pointed tabular horn, which runs parallel to the skull midline towards its tip, and a distinctive projection in the posterior border of the postparietal indicates a close relationship of the Brazilian chigutisaurid with the Indian Compsocerops cosgriffi. Three distinctive and combined characters suggest that the Brazilian chigutisaurid is a distinctive specimen: the presence of an alar process of the jugal in the ventral margin of the orbit; jugal does not extend well beyond the anterior margin of the orbit; and tabular does not contact the parietal. These characters could justify the erection of a new taxon; however, they might reflect its immature ontogenetic stage as well. Accordingly, we attribute this new specimen to Compsocerops sp. Argentinean and Indian occurrences are dated as Norian, so the presence of a Carnian chigutisaurid in southern Brazil indicates that western Gondwana chigutisaurids have first occupied the Paraná Basin and later migrated towards west (to Argentina) and east (India). However, the presence of ghost chigutisaurid taxa cannot be dismissed, because their long temporal range contrasts with their still short (in comparison with other temnospondyl groups) geographic distribution. Hence, they might have been more geographically widespread than their fossil record suggests.

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