A cover story and rapid communication in the latest Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology features Wangosaurus (Ma et al. 2015, Fig. 1), a long-necked, short-faced sauropterygian with short fingers and toes.
[Unfortunately, Wangosaurus in the urban dictionary is “a complete jackass.”] But let’s concentrate on the fossil, which is virtually complete and wonderfully preserved.
In the Ma et al paper, Wangosaurus nested as a sister Yungisaurus (Figs. 2, 3) and both were considered pistosaurids, the clade transitional between nothosaurs and plesiosaurs, despite their morphological differences.
In the large reptile tree (subset Fig. 4), Yungisaurus also nests between Pistosaurus and Plesiosaurus, but Wangosaurus nests in a much more basal node, between nothosaurs and Simosaurus, still close to the nesting in the Ma et al. paper (Fig. 2).
The Ma et al. tree is based on earlier work by Jiang et al. (2014 – featuring the basal placodont Majianshanosaurus), which is an updated version of Neenan et al. (2013). Note the differences in the skulls of Wangosaurus and Yungisaurus. Those don’t look like close relatives to me and their scores confirm those suspicions.
The Ma et al. tree employs suprageneric taxa (always a problem). You’ll note that turtles and lepidosauriformes are the proximal outgroup taxa to sauropterygians here. That is not supported by the large reptile tree. I also find it odd that the marine reptiles Claudiosaurus and Hovasaurus nest so far from the rest of their natural clade in the Ma et al. tree, and separate from one another.
Cheng Y-N, Sato T, Wu X-C and Li C 2006. First complete pistosaurid from the Triassic of China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 6(2):501-504.
Ma L-T, Jiang D-Y, Rieppel O, Motani R and Tintori A 2015. A new pistosaurid (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) from the late Landinian Xingyi marine reptile level, southwestern China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35(1): e881832.