Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 251–259 | Cite as

A new marine reptile from the Triassic of China, with a highly specialized feeding adaptation

  • Long Cheng
  • Xiao-Hong Chen
  • Qing-Hua Shang
  • Xiao-Chun Wu
Short Communication

Abstract

The Luoping fauna (Anisian, Middle Triassic) is probably the oldest of Triassic faunas in Guizhou–Yunnan area, China. The reptilian assemblage is comprised of ichthyosaurs, a number of sauropterygians (pachypleurosaur-like forms), saurosphargids, protorosaurs, and archosauriforms. Here, we report on a peculiar reptile, newly found in this fauna. Its dentition is fence or comb-like and bears more than 175 pleurodont teeth in each ramus of the upper and lower jaws, tooth crown is needle-like distally and blade-shaped proximally; its rostrum strongly bends downward and the anterior end of its mandible expands both dorsally and ventrally to form a shovel-headed structure; and its ungual phalanges are hoof-shaped. The specializations of the jaws and dentition indicate that the reptile may have been adapted to a way of bottom-filter feeding in water. It is obvious that such delicate teeth are not strong enough to catch prey, but were probably used as a barrier to filter microorganisms or benthic invertebrates such as sea worms. These were collected by the specialized jaws, which may have functioned as a shovel or pushdozer (the mandible) and a grasper or scratcher (the rostrum). Our preliminary analysis suggests that the new reptile might be more closely related to the Sauropterygia than to other marine reptiles.

Keywords

Diapsida Bottom-filter feeding Middle Triassic Yunnan China 

Supplementary material

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ESM 1(DOCX 2638 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Long Cheng
    • 1
  • Xiao-Hong Chen
    • 1
  • Qing-Hua Shang
    • 2
  • Xiao-Chun Wu
    • 3
  1. 1.Wuhan Institute of Geology and Mineral ResourcesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic ofChina
  3. 3.Canadian Museum of NatureOttawaCanada

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