Neil Brocklehurst, Robert R. Reisz, Vincent Fernandez & Jörg Fröbisch (2016)
A Re-Description of 'Mycterosaurus' smithae, an Early Permian Eothyridid, and Its Impact on the Phylogeny of Pelycosaurian-Grade Synapsids.
PLoS ONE 11(6): e0156810.
'Mycterosaurus' smithae, from the Cisuralian (early Permian) of Colorado, was first described in 1965 as a second species of the genus Mycterosaurus. While the type species of this genus, M. longiceps, has been shown by multiple cladistic analyses to belong to the basal synapsid family Varanopidae, 'M.' smithae has been largely ignored since its original description. Additional preparation and synchrotron scanning has revealed new significant information that supports the assignment of this species to a new genus: Vaughnictis gen. nov. Vaughnictis lacks many of the characteristics of mycterosaurines and varanopids in general: it lacks the slender femur, the linguo-labially compressed and strongly recurved teeth, and the lateral boss on the postorbital characteristic of this family. Instead, it possesses coronoid teeth, a large supratemporal, and a large pineal foramen positioned midway along the length of the parietal, features that support its assignment to Eothyrididae. Moreover, the postcranium shares many characters with the eothyridid Oedaleops. An expanded version of a recently published phylogenetic analysis of pelycosaurian-grade synapsids positions Vaughnictis as the sister taxon of Eothyris within the clade Eothyrididae. The addition of data on the postcranium of eothyridids and the inclusion of the recently-described basal caseid Eocasea confirms the recently-disputed position of caseasaurs as the most basal synapsids. As the parsimony analysis produced low support values and a lack of resolution due to missing data, additional analyses were undertaken using Bayesian and Implied Weights methods, which produced better resolution and relationships with higher support values. While the results are similar, alternative positions for the enigmatic Moscovian age (Carboniferous) synapsid Echinerpeton are suggested by Bayesian analysis; the parsimony analysis found it to be an ophiacodontid, while the Bayesian and Implied Weights analysis found it to be the sister to the Sphenacomorpha.