Cymbospondylus petrinus is a 20-30 foot (up to 8.33 m) long Middle Triassic ichthyosaur with a long, low toothy skull, short broad paddles and a long low, tail (Fig. 1).
The question is:
Is Cymbospondylus primitive and derived from Chaohusaurus and Grippia (as per Motani 1999)? Or is Cymbodpondylus derived and derived from Mixosaurus (as per Maisch and Matzke (2000, 2003) and the large reptile tree)?
However, if Cymbospondylus nests between Grippia and Mixosaurus
it is a giant nesting between two relatively small to tiny ichthyosaurs.
nested Cymbospondylus at the base of the Ichthyosauria between Chaohusaurus + Grippia and Mixosauria (Mixosaurus and all higher ichthyosaurs (Merriamosauria).
Maisch and Matzke (2000, 2003)
nested Cymbospondylus a little higher, between Mixosauria and Merriamosauria.
The large reptile tree (Fig. 2) nested Cymbspondylus petrinus between Mixosaurus and the toothless Guanlingsaurus liangae YGMR SPC V03017 + the possibly toothless giant Shonisaurus sikanniensis (apart from ‘Cymbospondylus’ buchseri, which here (Fig 2) nests with Shonisaurus popularis in a distinct clade). So we should expect several taxa transitional between Mixosaurus and these giants and near giants.
Despite their long, snaky look, Cymbospondylus and kin are not primitive, but may have reverted to that morphology as they grew to larger and larger size.
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Yin G-Z, Zhou X, Cao Y, Yu Y and Luo Y 2000. A preliminary study on the earlyLate Triassic marine reptiles from Guanling, Guizhou, China. Geology-Geochemisty 28(3):1–23 (Chinese with English abstract).