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Nothosaur paddle prints from Middle Triassic of China

Ben Creisler

A new paper:

Qiyue Zhang, Wen Wen, Shixue Hu, Michael J. Benton, Changyong Zhou,
Tao Xie, Tao Lü, Jinyuan Huang, Brian Choo, Zhong-Qiang Chen, Jun Liu
& Qican Zhang (2014)
Nothosaur foraging tracks from the Middle Triassic of southwestern China.
Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3973

The seas of the Mesozoic (266–66 Myr ago) were remarkable for
predatory marine reptiles, but their modes of locomotion have been
debated. One problem has been the absence of tracks, although there is
no reason to expect that swimmers would produce tracks. We report here
seabed tracks made by Mesozoic marine reptiles, produced by the
paddles of nothosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) in the Middle Triassic
of the Luoping localities in Yunnan, southwestern China. These show
that the track-making nothosaurs used their forelimbs for propulsion,
they generally rowed (both forelimbs operating in unison rather than
alternately), and the forelimb entered medially, dug in as the paddle
tip gained purchase, and withdrew cleanly. These inferences may
provide evidence for swimming modes, or it could be argued that the
locomotory modes indicated by the tracks were restricted to such
contact propulsion. Such punting behaviour may have been used to flush
prey from the bottom muds.

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