Chun Li, Xiao-chun Wu,Li-jun Zhao, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Michelle R. Stocker & Li-Ting Wang (2016)
A new armored archosauriform (Diapsida: Archosauromorpha) from the marine Middle Triassic of China, with implications for the diverse life styles of archosauriforms prior to the diversification of Archosauria
The Science of Nature 103:95
Reptiles have a long history of transitioning from terrestrial to semi-aquatic or aquatic environments that stretches back at least 250 million years. Within Archosauria, both living crocodylians and birds have semi-aquatic members. Closer to the root of Archosauria and within the closest relatives of the clade, there is a growing body of evidence that early members of those clades had a semi-aquatic lifestyle. However, the morphological adaptations to a semi-aquatic environment remain equivocal in most cases. Here, we introduce a new Middle Triassic (245–235 Ma) archosauriform, Litorosuchus somnii, gen. et sp. nov., based on a nearly complete skeleton from the Zhuganpo Member (Ladinian [241–235 Ma]) of the Falang Formation, Yunnan, China. Our phylogenetic analyses suggest that Litorosuchus is a stem archosaur closely related to the aberrant Vancleavea just outside of Archosauria. The well-preserved skeleton of L. somnii bears a number of morphological characters consistent with other aquatic-adapted tetrapods including: a dorsally directed external naris, tall neural spines and elongate chevrons in an elongated tail, a short and broad scapula, webbed feet, long cervical vertebrae with long slender ribs, and an elongated rostrum with long and pointed teeth. Together these features represent one of the best-supported cases of a semi-aquatic mode of life for a stem archosaur. Together with Vancleavea campi, the discovery of L. somnii demonstrates a growing body of evidence that there was much more diversity in mode of life outside Archosauria. Furthermore, L. somnii helps interpret other possible character states consistent with a semi-aquatic mode of life for archosauriforms, including archosaurs.