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A new specimen of the Triassic pistosauroid Yunguisaurus, with implications for the origin of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia)



An adult skeleton of the pistosauroid sauropterygian Yunguisaurus liae reveals a number of morphological features not observed in the holotype, such as the complete morphology of the skull roof, stapes, atlas and axis, ventral view of the postcranium, and nearly complete limbs and tail. Size and morphological differences between the two specimens are mostly regarded as ontogenetic variation, and newly added data did not affect the phylogenetic relationships with other pistosauroids significantly. The number of mesopodia (11 carpals and 8 tarsals) exceeds that known in any other Triassic marine reptiles and does not serve as a precursor of the plesiosaurian pattern with fewer mesopodia of different topology; it demonstrates variability of the limb morphology among the Triassic pistosauroids. The pectoral girdles of Corosaurus, Augustasaurus and Yunguisaurus may indicate early stages of the adaptation towards the plesiosaurian style of paraxial limb movements with ventroposterior power stroke.

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