A new and very slender
Late Triassic (230 mya) reptile from lake sediment, Ozimek volans (Dzik and Sulej 2016; ZPAL AbIII / 2512; Figs. 1-3) appears to look like a variety of taxa on both sides of the great divide within the Reptilia: macrocnemids and protorosaurs. Based on the long, thin-walled neck bones, Ozimek was originally considered a possible pterosaur or tanystropheid, but Dzik and Sulej nested it with Sharovipteryx (Fig. 1), the Middle Triassic gliding fenestrasaur, and considered it a big glider (Fig. 3).
The large reptile tree
(LRT) does not nest the much larger Ozimek with tiny Sharovipteryx, but with Prolacerta (Fig. 2). While lacking an antorbital fenestra, Dzik and Sulej consider Ozimek an archosauromorph. They also consider Sharovipteryx an archosauromorph. Like all fenestrasaurs, Sharovipteryx has an antorbital fenestra by convergence with archosauromorpha.
The authors report on the limestone concretion, “the fossils under study occur in the one-meter thick lacustrine horizon in the upper part where the dominant species are aquatic or semi-aquatic animals. These also include the armored aetosaur Stagonolepis, possible dinosauriform Silesaurus, crocodile-like labyrinthodont Cyclotosaurus, and the predatory rauisuchian Polonosuchus.”
Dzik and Sulej take the word of Unwin 2000, who did not see forelimbs in Sharovipteryx (and illustrated it with Sharov’s drawing), rather than the reports of Sharov 1971, Gans et al. 1987 and Peters 2000 who did see forelimbs. The latter three authors found the forelimbs were short with long fingers, distinct from the gracile forelimbs and short fingers found in Ozimek. So, that’s one way to twist the data to fit a preconception. New specimens often get a free pass when it comes to odd interpretations, as we’ve seen before in Yi qi and others.
Manus and pes
In the reconstruction it appears that the medial and lateral digits are flipped from standards. This is both shown and repaired in figure 2.
According to the scale bars
the ZPAL AbIII/2511 specimen is exactly half the size of the ZPAL AbIII/2012 specimen. That issue was not resolved by the SuppData The humerus shown in the 2012 specimen is not listed in the SuppData. Even so, the authors also ally another large humerus (2028) to Ozimek, and this provides the large scale seen in the fleshed-out model built for the museum and the camera (Fig. 3).
Built on several disassociated specimens
the reconstruction of Ozimek (Fig. 2) is a chimaera, something to watch out for.
Initial attempts at a phylogenetic analysis
based on the reconstruction pointed in three different directions, including one as a sauropterygian based on the illustrated dorsal configuration of the clavicles relative to the coronoids. If the clavicles are rotated so the vernal rim is aligned with the anterior coracoids the dorsal processes line up correctly with the indentations on the scapula (Fig. 2), alleviating the phylogenetic problem.
Lifestyle and niche
Sharovipteryx has an elongate scapula and coracoid, traits lacking in Ozimek. Sharovipteryx also has an elongate ilium and deep ventral pelvis, traits lacking in Ozimek. The limbs are so slender in Ozimek, much more so than in the much smaller Sharovipteryx, that it does not seem possible that they could support the large skull, long neck and long torso in the air – or on the ground. This is a weak reptile, likely incapable of rapid or robust locomotion. So instead of gliding, or even walking, perhaps Ozimek was buoyed by still water. Perhaps it moved its spidery limbs very little based on the small size of the available pectoral and pelvic anchors for muscles, despite those long anterior caudal transverse processes. Those might have been more useful at snaking a long thin tail for propulsion.
If we use our imagination,
perhaps with a large oval membrane that extended from the base of the neck to fore imbs to hind limbs Ozimek might have been like a Triassic water lily pad, able to dip its skull beneath the surface seeking prey, propelled by a flagellum-like tail. Not sure how else to interpret this set of specimens.
Dzik J and Sulej T 2016. An early Late Triassic long-necked reptile with a bony pectoral shield and gracile appendages. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 61 (4): 805–823.
wiki/Ozimek (in Polish)