Just found another paper on Diandongosaurus the day after, August 30, 2015. See below.
Diandongosaurus acutidentatus (Shang et al. 2011, IVPP V 17761) was originally considered, “neither a pachpleurosau nor a nothosauroid; it might be the sister group of the clade consisting of Wumengosaurus, the nothosauroid and those taxa traditionally considered as pachypleurosaurs.”
Shang et all are almost correct.
Despite its very pachypleurosaur-ish overall appeance (Fig. 2), Diandongosaurus nested at the base of the Placodontia in the large reptile tree.
the skull of Diandongosaurus (Fig. 1) is only slightly different than originally described. The prefrontal does not meet the postfrontal in this or any other basal sauropterygian. The premaxilla/maxilla suture is shifted slightly forward so that the premaxilla has only 4 teeth.
While we’re discussing the base of the Sauropterygia…
I realized that all sister taxa of Cartorhynchus (Fig. 4) have about 19 cervicals and 19 dorsals. Originally I had reconstructed Cartorhynchus withe its pectoral girdle close to the skull, where it was found in situ. But the pectoral girdle was much wider than the ribs in that area. Of course crushing is involved, but if you move the pectoral girdle closer to the 19th cervical, then everything appears to fit a little better (Fig. 3). Those posterior cervical ribs were dorsalized, indistinct from the dorsal ribs based on available data. Perhaps a closer look would show the line of demarcation.
You might remember
Cartorhynchus (Motani et al. 2014) was originally considered a type of basal ichthyosaur. Having a short neck was part of that decision. Lacking the correct generic sister taxa (Fig. 4) was also part of that decision. A few score revisions nested Cartorhynchus as a sister to Qianxisaurus, which also has poorly ossified manual digits.
A second paper on Diandongosaurus
(Sato et al. 2013) just came to my attention, restudied on the basis of a new specimen, also in ventral view. It is preserved straight as an arrow. (Fig. 5).
The Sato et al team
nested their specimen at the base of the nothosauroids (Nothosaurus, Corosaurus, Lariosaurus), but they did not include Palatodonta, Pappochelys and other basal placodonts. Instead they used Placodus and Cyamodus to represent all placodonts. The Sato et al. team also used many suprageneric taxa, except among the pachypleurosaurs.
By duplicating the deletion
of all but two placodonts, the large reptile tree recovered Diandongosaurus at the base of the the Sauropterygia, basal to Pachypleurosaurus. So no change there. However, Placodus and Cyamodus now nested between Wangosaurus and Simosaurus among the basal plesiosaurs, one node away from the nothosaurs.
By duplicating the taxon list
of Sato et all. (as best as I could using 25 similar or the same taxa) Diandongosaurus did not change its nesting between Anarosaurus and Pachypleurosaurus. Likewise, the sauropterygians did not change their topology. However, other taxa were all over the place. The soft shell turtle, Odontochelys, nested at the base with the thalattosaur, Askeptosaurus. The rhynchosaur, Hyperodapedon and the choristodere, Champsosaurus nested with the placodonts, Placodus and Cyamodus. Claudiosaurus nested with Prolacerta, Trilophosaurus, Iguana (representing Squamata) and Proterosuchus (representing Archosauriformes). These odd nestings demonstrate the importance of having a broad gamut study to enable a verifiable narrowing of focus on a subset of that broad gamut study. Otherwise, its just scattershot, as shown above.
Motani R et al. 2014. A basal ichthyosauriform with a short snout from the Lower Triassic of China. Nature doi:10.1038/nature13866
Sato T, Cheng Y-N, Wu X-C and Shan H-Y 2013. Diandongosaurus acutidentatus Shang, Wu & Li, 2011 (Diapsida: Sauropterygia) and the relationships of Chinese eosauropterygians. Geological Magazine 151:121-133.
Shang Q-H, Wu X-C and Li C 2011. A new eosauropterygian from Middle Triassic of Eastern Yunnan Province, Southwestern China. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 49(2):155-171.