Project 2208: Eric W. Wilberg. 2015. A new metriorhynchoid (Crocodylomorpha, Thalattosuchia) from the Middle Jurassic of Oregon and the evolutionary timing of marine adaptations in thalattosuchian crocodylomorphs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 35 (2):e902846.
Specimen: † Zoneait nargorum Wilburg, 2015 (UOMNCH/F39539)


Metriorhynchid thalattosuchians represent the most extreme archosaurian adaptation to the marine realm. Metriorhynchids possess aquatic adaptations throughout the skeleton. These adaptations were so extensive that some have suggested that they lost the ability to move on land, yet their evolutionary timing remains unresolved. The closest relatives of the metriorhynchoids, the teleosauroids, lack these aquatic adaptations, and the earliest metriorhynchoids are known exclusively from cranial material. Here I describe a partial skull with associated forelimb elements of a new marine crocodylomorph, Zoneait nargorum, gen. et sp. nov., of Aalenian–Bajocian age from the Snowshoe Formation of east-central Oregon. Phylogenetic analysis identifies Zoneait as the sister taxon to Metriorhynchidae. It possesses a derived skull with orbits that are more laterally directed and prefrontals that are more expanded than in other basal metriorhynchoids. The preserved forelimb elements are less derived. The humerus is elongate in comparison with that of other metriorhynchoids. The ulna is slightly reduced in length and flattened but resembles the teleosauroid condition more so than the plate-like element of metriorhynchids. This suggests that marine adaptations in metriorhynchoids were acquired in mosaic fashion, with modifications of the skull preceding forelimb reduction, with this forelimb reduction occurring first in the zeugopodial elements, prior to reduction of the humerus. This evolutionary timing has important implications for the transition from nearshore ambush predation to pelagic open-marine predation in Thalattosuchia, suggesting that adaptations related to prey detection and capture preceded the locomotor adaptations that allowed these organisms to fully invade the oceans.

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Article DOI: 10.1080/ 02724634.2014.902846

Project DOI: 10.7934/P2208,
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  • Creation Date:
    09 July 2015
  • Publication Date:
    13 July 2015
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    • University of Iowa


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