Project 883: J. Parrilla-Bel, M. T. Young, M. Moreno-Azanza, J. I. Canudo. 2013. The First Metriorhynchid Crocodylomorph from the Middle Jurassic of Spain, with Implications for Evolution of the Subclade Rhacheosaurini. PLOS ONE. 8 (1):e54275.
Specimen: † Maledictosuchus riclaensis (MPZ:2001/130a)

Abstract

Background

Marine deposits from the Callovian of Europe have yielded numerous species of metriorhynchid crocodylomorphs. While common in English and French Formations, metriorhynchids are poorly known from the Iberian Peninsula. Twenty years ago an incomplete, but beautifully preserved, skull was discovered from the Middle Callovian of Spain. It is currently the oldest and best preserved metriorhynchid specimen from the Iberian Peninsula. Until now it has never been properly described and its taxonomic affinities remained obscure.
Methodology/Principal Findings

Here we present a comprehensive description for this specimen and in doing so we refer it to a new genus and species: Maledictosuchus riclaensis. This species is diagnosed by numerous autapomorphies, including: heterodont dentition; tightly interlocking occlusion; lachrymal anterior process excludes the jugal from the preorbital fenestra; orbits longer than supratemporal fenestrae; palatine has two non-midline and one midline anterior processes. Our phylogenetic analysis finds Maledictosuchus riclaensis to be the basal-most known member of Rhacheosaurini (the subclade of increasingly mesopelagic piscivores that includes Cricosaurus and Rhacheosaurus).
Conclusions/Significance

Our description of Maledictosuchus riclaensis shows that the craniodental morphologies that underpinned the success of Rhacheosaurini in the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, as a result of increasing marine specialization to adaptations for feeding on fast small-bodied prey (i.e. divided and retracted external nares; reorientation of the lateral processes of the frontal; elongate, tubular rostrum; procumbent and non-carinated dentition; high overall tooth count; and dorsolaterally inclined paroccipital processes), first appeared during the Middle Jurassic. Rhacheosaurins were curiously rare in the Middle Jurassic, as only one specimen of Maledictosuchus riclaensis is known (with no representatives discovered from the well-sampled Oxford Clay Formation of England). As such, the feeding/marine adaptations of Rhacheosaurini did not confer an immediate selective advantage upon the group, and it took until the Late Jurassic for this subclade to dominate in Western Europe.



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Article DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0054275

Project DOI: 10.7934/P883, http://dx.doi.org/10.7934/P883
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