Vadasaurus herzogi gen. et sp. nov.
[named for German film-maker Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Grizzly Man, etc.)]
Gabriel S. Bever & Mark A. Norell (2017)
A new rhynchocephalian (Reptilia: Lepidosauria) from the Late Jurassic of Solnhofen (Germany) and the origin of the marine Pleurosauridae.
Royal Society Open Science 4: 170570
A new rhynchocephalian is described based on a recently discovered and well-preserved specimen from the Late Jurassic (Kimmeridgian) marine limestones of Solnhofen, Bavaria. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the new taxon as the sister group to Pleurosauridae, a small radiation of rhynchocephalians representing the oldest marine invasion of crown-clade Lepidosauria. The relatively strong evidence for this taxonomically exclusive lineage, within a generally volatile rhynchocephalian tree, places the new taxon in a position to inform the early history of the pleurosaur transition to the sea. The early steps in this transition are distributed throughout the skeleton and appear to increase hydrodynamic efficiency for both swimming and aquatic feeding. This early history may also have included a global truncation of plesiomorphic ontogenetic trajectories that left a number of skeletal features with reduced levels of ossification/fusion. The exact degree to which Vadasaurus had adopted an aquatic ecology remains unclear, but the insight it provides into the origin of the enigmatic pleurosaurs exemplifies the potential of Rhynchocephalia for generating and informing broad-based questions regarding the interplay of development, morphology, ecology and macroevolutionary patterns.