Paraplacodus and the phylogeny of the Placodontia (Reptilia: Sauropterygia)

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Abstract

The skeletal anatomy of Paraplacodus broilii Peyer from the Grenzbitumen-horizon (Anisian-Ladinian boundary) of Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland) is described and compared with that of other placodonts. Paraplacodus is found to share a number of potential synapomorphies with Placodus which could potentially corroborate the monophyly of the Placodontoidea, but Placodus also shares an number of potential synapomorphies with the armored placodonts (Cyamodontoidea) which are absent in Paraplacodus. Parsimony analysis rejects the monophyly of the Placodontoidea, and places Paraplacodus at the root of the placodont tree, as the sister-taxon of all the other representatives of the clade. This correlates with a configuration of the temporal region of the skull that suggest the loss of the lower temporal arch in a diapsid skull. The loss of the lower temporal arch is therefore recognized as a sauropterygian synapomorphy, and might even be a lepidosauromorph synapomorphy.

Ancillary