Benoit et al. 2021 wonder if varanopids may in fact belong to Diapsida

Answer:
Varanopids are basal to synapsids AND non-lepidosaur diapsids. We’ve known this for about a decade in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1837+ taxa, subset Fig. 1).

Figure 4. Subset of the LRT focusing on basal Archosauromorpha including Vaughnictis and Cabarzia nesting at the base of the Protodiapsid-Synapsid split. Note all the large varanopids nest together here in the Synapsida, separate from small varanopids in the Protodiapsida.
Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on basal Archosauromorpha including Vaughnictis and Cabarzia nesting at the base of the Protodiapsid-Synapsid split. Note all the large varanopids nest together here in the Synapsida, separate from small varanopids in the Protodiapsida.

The Benoit et all 2021 study suffers from taxon exclusion
and from trying to ‘Pull a Larry Martin’ by examining only the maxillary canals of several cherry-picked taxa using µCT scans without a valid phylogenetic context (Fig. 1). These authors had no idea that lepidosaur diapsids are NOT related to archosauromorph diapsids.

References
Benoit J, Ford DP, Miyamae JA and Ruf I 2021. Can maxillary canal morphology inform varanopod phylogenetic affinities? Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 66 (x): xxx?xxx, 2021. https://doi.org/10.4202/app.00816.2020

Diapsida
Archosauromorpha – Lepidosauromorpha split in the Viséan

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