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Eohupehsuchus, new short-necked hupehsuchian from Lower Triassic of China

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Xiao-hong Chen, Ryosuke Motani, Long Cheng, Da-yong Jiang & Olivier
Rieppel (2014)
A Small Short-Necked Hupehsuchian from the Lower Triassic of Hubei
Province, China.
PLoS ONE 9(12): e115244.

Hupehsuchia is a group of enigmatic Triassic marine reptiles that is
known exclusively from two counties in Hubei Province, China. One of
the common features of the group was a modestly long neck with nine to
ten cervical vertebrae. We report a new species of Hupehsuchia,
Eohupehsuchus brevicollis gen. et sp. nov., which for the first time
shows a short neck in this group, with six cervicals. The
configuration of the skull roof in Eohupehsuchus is also unique among
Hupehsuchia, with narrow frontals and posteriorly shifted parietals,
warranting recognition of a new species. The taxon superficially
resembles Nanchangosaurus in retaining hupehsuchian plesiomorphies,
such as low neural spines and small body size. However, its limbs are
well-developed, unlike in Nanchangosaurus, although the latter genus
is marginally larger in body length. Thus, the individual is unlikely
to be immature. Also, Eohupehsuchus shares a suite of synapomorphies
with Hupehsuchus, including the second and third layers of dermal
ossicles above the dorsal neural spines. A phylogenetic analysis
suggests that the new species is not the most basal hupehsuchian
despite its short neck, and instead forms the sister taxon of
Hupehsuchidae. Until recently, Hupehsuchia contained only two
monotypic genera. Now there are at least four genera among
Hupehsuchia, and the undescribed diversity is even higher. The left
forelimb of the only specimen is incomplete, ending with broken
phalanges distally. The breakage could only have occurred pre-burial.
The individual may have been attacked by a predator and escaped, given
that scavenging is unlikely.