JOURNAL ARTICLE

A new archosauriform (Reptilia: Diapsida) from the Manda beds (Middle Triassic) of southwestern Tanzania

Sterling J Nesbitt, Richard J Butler, David J Gower
PloS One 2013, 8 (9): e72753
24086264

BACKGROUND: Archosauria and their closest relatives, the non-archosaurian archosauriforms, diversified in the Early and Middle Triassic, soon after the end-Permian extinction. This diversification is poorly documented in most Lower and Middle Triassic rock sequences because fossils of early groups of archosauriforms are relatively rare compared to those of other amniotes. The early Middle Triassic (? late Anisian) Manda beds of southwestern Tanzania form an exception, with early archosaur skeletons being relatively common and preserved as articulated or associated specimens. The Manda archosaur assemblage is exceptionally diverse for the Middle Triassic. However, to date, no non-archosaurian archosauriforms have been reported from these rocks.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, we name a new taxon, Asperoris mnyama gen. et sp. nov., from the Manda beds and thoroughly describe the only known specimen. The specimen consists of a well-preserved partial skull including tooth-bearing elements (premaxilla, maxilla), the nasal, partial skull roof, and several incomplete elements. All skull elements are covered in an autapomorphic highly rugose sculpturing. A unique combination of character states indicates that A. mnyama lies just outside Archosauria as a stem archosaur within Archosauriformes, but more precise relationships of A. mnyama relative to other early archosauriform clades (e.g., Erythrosuchidae) cannot be determined currently.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Asperoris mnyama is the first confirmed non-archosaurian archosauriform from the Manda beds and increases the morphological and taxonomic diversity of early archosauriforms known from the Middle Triassic. The direct association of A. mnyama with species referable to Archosauria demonstrates that non-archosaurian archosauriforms were present during the rise and early diversification of Archosauria. Non-archosaurian archosauriforms and archosaurs co-occur in fossil reptile assemblages across Pangaea from the late Early Triassic to the end of the Late Triassic.

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