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Redescription of the skull of the Australian flatback sea turtle, Natator depressus, provides new morphological evidence for phylogenetic relationships among sea turtles (Chelonioidea)

Chatterji, RM; Hutchinson, MN; Jones, MEH; (2021) Redescription of the skull of the Australian flatback sea turtle, Natator depressus, provides new morphological evidence for phylogenetic relationships among sea turtles (Chelonioidea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society , 191 (4) pp. 1090-1113. 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa071. Green open access

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Abstract

Chelonioidea (sea turtles) are a group where available morphological evidence for crown-group relationships are incongruent with those established using molecular data. However, morphological surveys of crown-group taxa tend to focus on a recurring subset of the extant species. The Australian flatback sea turtle, Natator depressus, is often excluded from comparisons and it is the most poorly known of the seven extant species of Chelonioidea. Previous descriptions of its skull morphology are limited and conflict. Here we describe three skulls of adult N. depressus and re-examine the phylogenetic relationships according to morphological character data. Using X-ray micro Computed Tomography we describe internal structures of the braincase and identify new phylogenetically informative characters not previously reported. Phylogenetic analysis using a Bayesian approach strongly supports a sister-group relationship between Chelonia mydas and N. depressus, a topology that was not supported by previous analyses of morphological data but one that matches the topology supported by analysis of molecular data. Our results highlight the general need to sample the morphological anatomy of crown-group taxa more thoroughly before concluding that morphological and molecular evidence are incongruous.

Type: Article
Title: Redescription of the skull of the Australian flatback sea turtle, Natator depressus, provides new morphological evidence for phylogenetic relationships among sea turtles (Chelonioidea)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa071
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa071
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: braincase, reptile, Testudinata
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110947
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