Thursday, July 14, 2011

[Palaeontology • 2011] Neptunidraco ammoniticus • the Oldest known Metriorhynchid Crocodylian from the Middle Jurassic of North-eastern Italy

Metriorhynchidae is a clade of marine-adapted crocodilians known from several Middle Jurassic–Early Cretaceous specimens collected predominantly in South America and Europe, but poorly known in the northern margin of Gondwana. The “Portomaggiore crocodile” is the most complete specimen of an Italian metriorhynchid to date: it consists of a partial skeleton that has been provisionally referred to an unnamed species of Late Jurassic Metriorhynchus or Geosaurus. The specimen is preserved in the reddish, nodular limestone of the Rosso Ammonitico Veronese Formation (Bajocian–Tithonian); new data on microfossil associations constrain the age of the metriorhynchid to the late Bajocian–earliest Bathonian. On the basis of cranial synapomorphies, the “Portomaggiore crocodile” falls as the closest sister-taxon of the Late Jurassic– Early Cretaceous geosaurines, and is referred to Neptunidraco ammoniticus gen. et sp. nov. It is unique among Middle Jurassic metriorhynchids in showing an incipient streamlining of the skull, shared with Late Jurassic and Cretaceous taxa. Since Neptunidraco is the oldest known member of Metriorhynchidae, its phylogenetic position supports the hypothesis that the timing of the initial metriorhynchid and geosaurine diversifications should start in the Bajocian.

Keywords: Metriorhynchidae; Thalattosuchia; Rosso Ammonitico Veronese Formation; Italy; Middle Jurassic; Bajocian–Bathonian

Fig. 3A. Geographic location of the major outcrops of the Rosso Ammonitico Veronese Formation in north-eastern Italy;

Fig. 1. The “Portomaggiore crocodile”. A, MGGC 8846/1UCC123b (exposed side); B, MGGC 8846/1UCC123a (exposed side); C, MPPPL 35; D, MPPPL 39.

Andrea Cau and Federico Fanti 2011. The oldest known metriorhynchid crocodylian from the Middle Jurassic of North-eastern Italy: Neptunidraco ammoniticus gen. et sp. nov. Gondwana Research. 19 (2): 550–565. doi:10.1016/

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