Christian Püntener, Jérémy Anquetin & Jean-Paul Billon-Bruyat (2017)
The comparative osteology of Plesiochelys bigleri n. sp., a new coastal marine turtle from the Late Jurassic of Porrentruy (Switzerland).
During the Late Jurassic, several groups of eucryptodiran turtles inhabited the shallow epicontinental seas of Western Europe. Plesiochelyidae are an important part of this first radiation of crown-group turtles into coastal marine ecosystems. Fossils of Plesiochelyidae occur in many European localities, and are especially abundant in the Kimmeridgian layers of the Swiss Jura Mountains (Solothurn and Porrentruy). In the mid-19th century, the quarries of Solothurn (NW Switzerland) already provided a large amount of fossil turtles, most notably Plesiochelys etalloni, the best-known plesiochelyid species. Recent excavations in the Porrentruy area (NW Switzerland) revealed new fossils of Plesiochelys, including numerous well-preserved shells with associated cranial and postcranial material.
Out of 80 shells referred to Plesiochelys, 41 are assigned to a new species, Plesiochelys bigleri n. sp., including a skull–shell association. We furthermore refer 15 shells to Plesiochelys etalloni, and 24 shells to Plesiochelys sp. Anatomical comparisons show that Plesiochelys bigleri can clearly be differentiated from Plesiochelys etalloni by cranial features. The shell anatomy and the appendicular skeleton of Plesiochelys bigleri and Plesiochelys etalloni are very similar. However, a statistical analysis demonstrates that the thickness of neural bones allows to separate the two species based on incomplete material. This study furthermore illustrates the extent of intraspecific variation in the shell anatomy of Plesiochelys bigleri and Plesiochelys etalloni.
RONG Yu-Fen (2017)
Restudy of Regalerpeton weichangensis (Amphibia: Urodela) from the Lower Cretaceous of Hebei, China.
Vertebrata PalAsiatica (in press)
Regalerpeton weichangensis was established in 2009 on an incomplete skeleton preserved mainly as an impression from the Lower Cretaceous of Hebei, China. However, several anatomical characters were misinterpreted due to distortion of the holotype, and its taxonomic position has been in debate. In this paper, R. weichangensis is redescribed based on eight new specimens and its diagnosis and phylogenetic position are re-examined. This work shows that R. weichangensis was a neotenic form with ossified carpals and tarsals. It has a series of unique combination of characteristics including the vomer with a transverse vomerine tooth row, anterior end of the cultriform process of the parasphenoid indented, basibranchial II triradiate and scapulocoracoid with a rectangular coracoid end. Phylogenetic analysis suggests Regalerpeton, Jeholotriton and Pangerpeton should be placed in the suborder Salamandroidea with three synapomorphies. Moreover, they also share unicapitate ribs with Cryptobranchoidea, which indicates that they represent an important stage of evolution in the Cryptobranchoidea-Salamandroidea split.
Agnete Weinreich Carlsen (2017)
Frequency of decompression illness among recent and extinct mammals and “reptiles”: a review
The Science of Nature (advance online publication)
The frequency of decompression illness was high among the extinct marine “reptiles” and very low among the marine mammals. Signs of decompression illness are still found among turtles but whales and seals are unaffected. In humans, the risk of decompression illness is five times increased in individuals with Patent Foramen Ovale; this condition allows blood shunting from the venous circuit to the systemic circuit. This right-left shunt is characteristic of the “reptile” heart, and it is suggested that this could contribute to the high frequency of decompression illness in the extinct reptiles.
Samantha R. Anderson and John J. Wiens (2017)
Out of the dark: 350 million years of conservatism and evolution in diel activity patterns in vertebrates.
Evolution (advance online publication)
Many animals are active only during a particular time (e.g., day vs. night), a partitioning that may have important consequences for species coexistence. An open question is the extent to which this diel activity niche is evolutionarily conserved or labile. Here, we analyze diel activity data across a phylogeny of 1914 tetrapod species. We find strong phylogenetic signal, showing that closely related species tend to share similar activity patterns. Ancestral reconstructions show that nocturnality was the most likely ancestral diel activity pattern for tetrapods and many major clades within it (e.g., amphibians, mammals). Remarkably, nocturnal activity appears to have been maintained continuously in some lineages for ∼350 million years. Thus, we show that traits involved in local-scale resource partitioning can be conserved over strikingly deep evolutionary time scales. We also demonstrate a potentially important (but often overlooked) metric of niche conservatism. Finally, we show that diurnal lineages appear to have faster speciation and diversification rates than nocturnal lineages, which may explain why there are presently more diurnal tetrapod species even though diurnality appears to have evolved more recently. Overall, our results may have implications for studies of community ecology, species richness, and the evolution of diet and communication systems.