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some additions to Re: MOSASAURS AND PLIOSAURS
The following comments are meant as additions, not critique, to an otherwise
up-to-date and comprehensive review made by Darren.
> MOSASAUR RELATIONSHIPS
> The description or re-description in recent years of basal snakes
> (_Pachyrhachis_ in particular, and also the madtsoiids) - animals that turn
> to be so 'lizard'-like that workers have had to keep looking further back in
> squamate tree - has contributed to this approach. Basal snakes have
> pelves and hindlimbs and were marine. That mosasauroids are all marine argues
> that the first pythonomorph was too. Madtsoiids (most primitive snakes after
> _Pachyrhachis_ etc.) were still 'wet' and I reckon they were amphibious, while
> post-madtsoiid snakes adapted to full terrestriality and underwent a fossorial
> stage (hence those funny eyes!).
According to a study of Caldwell and Carroll of well preserved
postcranial remains of the mosasauroid aigialosaur Carsosaurus, the
body was not very different from that of the anguimorph cousins in
the proportion of the limbs to the body and the structure of the
carpus. Carsosaurus also possessed a strong shoulder joint
(humero-scapulocoracoid joint) and a well developed iliac blade for
muscle attachment. So aigialosaurs were probably terrestrial animals
that were only facultative aquatic, and present an intermediate
organisation between the fully terrestrial anguid lizards and the
fully aquatic mosasaurs.
> Plesiosaurs represent a derived clade in the Sauropterygia Owen, 1860. This
> group contains a Triassic radiation of amphibious-marine forms long lumped
> together as a paraphyletic 'Nothosauria' but now consisting of discrete clades
> that became less land-dependent and more derived in style of paraxial
> (i.e. they grade up the flight of plesiosaurs). Glen Storrs recognises the
> derived 'nothosaurs' (_Nothosaurus_, _Pistosaurus_ and relatives) as forming
> clade Nothosauriformes with the plesiosaurs.
According to a study of nothosaur braincases by Rieppel, a
monophyletic family Nothosauridae can be defined (Nothosaurus,
Paranothosaurus, Lariosaurus and Ceresiosaurus). Sister-group of
Nothosauridae is Cymatosaurus, together they form the clade
> Basal- and non-nothosauriforms are
> predominantly Tethyan in distribution and the presence of the
> pachypleurosaurs -
> a clade of lizard-shaped amphibious, small-bodied reptiles - here too
> that this is the sauropterygian home. Pachypleurosaurs have traditionally been
> regarded as 'nothosaurs' too but they are increasing regarded as a
> sauropterygian out-group.
Pachypleurosauroidea is the sister group of Eusauropterygia, within
Sauropterygia, according to Rieppel (Eusauropterygia including
Simosaurus, Corosaurus, Nothosauria and Plesiosauria).
> Whatever, they are primitive members of the group that
> includes plesiosaurs. Placodonts are a problem. Rieppel and Storrs have them
> true sauropterygians, but this is mildly controversial. The most comprehensive
> and current view of placodont relationships is a paper by Mazin in _Geobios_.
> It's in French and I haven't understood it all yet. Cladistic analysis of
> sauropterygian and placodont characters by Rieppel did nest Placodontia within
> Sauropterygia. If this view does not become accepted, perhaps resurrection of
> a Euryapsida (Placodontia + Sauropterygia) will do.
Rieppel also considers turtles and placodonts as sister groups if
memory serves, so in his view, turtles are extant Sauropterygia...