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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2021 / A new small crocodylian skull from the early Paleocene of Qianshan, Anhui, China reveals an ancient Asian ghost lineage

Sophie Boerman, Jian Yang, Cheng-Sen Li, Robert P. Speijer and Thierry Smith (2021)

A new small crocodylian skull from the early Paleocene of Qianshan, Anhui, China reveals an ancient Asian ghost lineage

In: Multidisciplinary Workshop - Scientific Missions and their Advancement for Overseas Sciences: Past, Present and Future - Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences - Brussels, 20 December 2021, vol. Programme, pp. 15, Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer.

The Crocodylia include all modern crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials, and their extinct relatives. They are an ancient lineage that originated around 70 million years ago. Recently, the field of crocodylian paleontology has experienced a rise in attention from researchers, however, much is still unknown about the early evolution of this group. Our research describes newly discovered fossil material comprised of a small crocodylian skull and associated partial lower jaw of early Paleocene age. It was discovered during a Belgian-Chinese expedition in Qianshan Basin, Anhui Province, China, as part of a bilateral cooperation project between the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the present study, the fossil material is formally described for the first time. Micro-CT scans are made to visualize internal anatomical structures, as well as characters hidden by the sediment. A comprehensive morphological study is executed, revealing that the specimen is a juvenile. It likely constitutes a new species and genus, as it differs from other crocodyloids by several autapomorphies. A phylogenetic analysis based on morphological characteristics reveal that this specimen is the most basal taxon among Crocodyloidea, a group that comprises all species more closely related to modern crocodiles than to modern alligators, caimans, or gharials. Although it is not the oldest crocodyloid ever reported, it is the earliest crocodyloid in Asia. Moreover, its basal phylogenetic position implies that it is part of an ancient ghost lineage of crocodyloids that had already been around in Asia for a longer time. The presence of crocodyloid remains in the Late Cretaceous of North America and the late Paleocene of Europe suggests that crocodyloids may have migrated there from Asia early on in their evolutionary history.
Proceedings, PDF available, Abstract of an Oral Presentation or a Poster
Paleontology
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