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A reassessment of the enigmatic diapsid Paliguana whitei and the early history of Lepidosauromorpha

Ford, DP; Evans, SE; Choiniere, JN; Fernandez, V; Benson, RBJ; (2021) A reassessment of the enigmatic diapsid Paliguana whitei and the early history of Lepidosauromorpha. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 288 (1957) , Article 20211084. 10.1098/rspb.2021.1084. Green open access

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Abstract

Lepidosaurs include lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians and the tuatara, comprising a highly speciose evolutionary radiation with widely varying anatomical traits. Their stem-lineage originated by the late middle Permian 259 million years ago, but its early fossil record is poorly documented, obscuring the origins of key anatomical and functional traits of the group. Paliguana whitei, from the Early Triassic of South Africa, is an enigmatic fossil species with the potential to provide information on this. However, its anatomy and phylogenetic affinities remain highly uncertain, and have been debated since its discovery more than 100 years ago. We present microtomographic three-dimensional imaging of the cranial anatomy of P. whitei that clarifies these uncertainties, providing strong evidence for lepidosauromorph affinities based on the structure of the temporal region and the implantation of marginal dentition. Phylogenetic analysis including these new data recovers Paliguana as the earliest known stem-lepidosaur, within a long-lived group of early diverging lepidosauromorphs that persisted to at least the Middle Jurassic. Our results provide insights into cranial evolution on the lepidosaur stem-lineage, confirming that characteristics of pleurodont dental implantation evolved early on the lepidosaur stem-lineage. By contrast, key functional traits related to hearing (quadrate conch) and feeding (streptostyly) evolved later in the lepidosaur crown-group.

Type: Article
Title: A reassessment of the enigmatic diapsid Paliguana whitei and the early history of Lepidosauromorpha
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.1084
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1084
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: Lepidosaur, phylogeny, synchrotron, Triassic, anatomy, Lepidosauromorpha
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/10134267
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