Reptile phylogeny and the interrelationships of turtles


Correspondence to: Dr M. deBraga.


A comprehensive analysis of amniote interrelationships is presented in an attempt to test turtle interrelationships. The results refute earlier hypotheses that turtles are related to parareptiles, i.e. to procolophonids or pareiasaurs. Instead, turtles are shown to be the sister-group of Sauropterygia, the two clades being nested within Sauria as sister-group of Lepidosauriformes. This scenario is also supported by several developmental and soft tissue characters which are shown to be congruent with the current phylogeny. The analysis strongly supports a monophyletic Parareptilia, sister-group of a monophylctic Eurcptilia. The Diapsida, however, is paraphyletic unless it includes turtles and sauropterygians. Additionally, the position of turtles within Diapsida has major implications for the evolutionary history and/or significance of many characters, i.e. temporal fenestration.