Novel insights – part 1

Not much news lately,
so a bit of a review in the current storms of controversy and disparagement.

In the last four years
adding species- and specimen-based taxa to the large reptile tree and large pterosaur tree and creating reconstructions, at times using DGS, have provided a rich trove of novel insights into reptile evolution heretofore (and too often currently) unnoticed, overlooked and ignored. Of course, these all need to be tested in independent studies using similar taxon lists along with any novel list of character traits exceeding 150-200 in number.


  1. Initial split of the Amniota into Lepidosauromorpha and Archosauromorpha clades. That means Amniota = Reptilia.
  2. Gephyrostegus bohemicus is a sister to the last common Viséan (or earlier) ancestor of all Amniotes. It lacks traditional amniote skeletal traits, but lacks posterior dorsal ribs, creating a larger volume for gravid females to hold larger eggs, a deeper pelvic opening and unfused pelvic elements.
  3. Proximal outgroup taxa to the Amniota include sisters to Silvanerpeton, Utegenia and members of the Seymouriamorpha in order of increasing distance.
  4. As in many prior studies, phylogenetic miniaturization is key to the origin of several clades.


  1. Basal lepidosauromorphs include the clade of Urumqia, Brukterepeton and Thuringothyris. Some of these were formerly considered anamniotes.
  2. Captorhinomorph sister taxa include Cephalerpeton, Reiszhorhinus, Concordia and Romeria primus. Romeria texana is a basal captorhinomorph.
  3. A sister to Saurorictus is basal to all remaining lepidosauromorphs, Diadectormorpha + Millerettidae.
  4. Diadectomorphs are lepidosauromorph reptiles.
  5. Procolophon and kin are sisters to diadectomorphs like Oradectes, Silvadectes and Diadectes. A sister to Orobates is their last common ancestor.
  6. Colobomycter is a basal procolophonid.
  7. Tetraceratops is a sister to Tseajaia and Limnoscelis and these three are sisters to the Diadectes + Procolophon clade.
  8. Caseasauria are millerettids, not synapsids and caseasauria is a sister clade to Feeserpeton + Australothyris + Eunotosaurus + Acleistorhinus + Delorhynchus.
  9. Bolosaurids are also millerettids  and are basal to the Stephanospondylus clade.
  10. Stephanospondylus is basal to the pariasaur + turtle clade.
  11. Sclerosaurus is basal to the turtle clade.
  12. ElginiaMeolania nest as basalmost turtles along with Proganochelys.
  13. Odontochelys nests with Trionyx, a soft-shell turtle. Skull emargination and tooth loss was convergent in soft shell  and hard shell turtles.

More later.

Comments from readers

I don’t get very many comments from readers.
Rarely do any of my blogposts get any feedback. The few rare comments I do get usually arrive whenever I make a mistake among the bird-like theropod dinosaurs, who have their own large fan base. Oddly, many of those readers also become further angered whenever I correct those mistakes, something I thought they were encouraging me to do! In the world of the Internet, and scientific discovery, such feedback is par for the course and must be expected. People in general, and scientists in particular, like their paradigms and don’t want outsiders tampering with them.

As a matter of practice, 
I try to be very specific and show images in my comments on the work of others, keeping anger and other negative emotions out of it.

Even more rarely
do I get replies that include specific instructions and data on how to correct my tracing errors. That has probably happened less than ten times in 1350 blog posts. Nevertheless, all of those rare comments are gratefully appreciated and acted upon. As my readers know, I’m only trying to get everything right, hoping only to provide new ideas to colleagues, whether they like those ideas or not. In Science, testing is supposed to be an okay thing to do. And if the tests are not valid, they can be done again and again until they are valid.

After 4+ years of
and, I still haven’t seen any other paleontologist attempt to provide large gamut reptile cladograms based on specimens and species, now hovering around 560 taxa (exclusive of the pterosaur cladogram). The bird, dinosaur, croc and lizard paleontologists have done similar large gamut work, so I’m trying to avoid those well-studied clades, concentrating only on their origins. Let’s face it, a large gamut study of the basal reptiles needs to be published. The problem is, no PhD is interested or capable (time and travel constraints) of doing so, so far. Perhaps one is in progress.

The ‘hate mail’ I get reminds me of the 1961 Yankees
and specifically of the plight of Roger Maris, who, in 1961 approached and ultimately exceeded Babe Ruth’s hallowed 60 home runs in a season record. Teammate Mickey Mantle (Fig. 1) was also in that race that year that also featured an extended season. No one liked the fact that Maris, an outsider, was doing something so important.

Figure 1. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantile in 1961, two Yankees with a chance to break Babe Ruth's home run record.

Figure 1. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantile in 1961, two Yankees with a chance to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. The press and the fans were not kind to Maris during that season or to Mantle several years earlier.

Wikipedia reports, “In 1956, the New York press had been protective of Ruth when Mantle challenged Ruth’s record for most of the season. When Mantle fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. The New York press had not been kind to Mantle in his early years with the team; he struck out frequently, was injury prone, was a true “hick” from Oklahoma, and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field, Joe DiMaggio. Mantle, however, over the course of time (with a little help from his friend and teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York’s Borough of Queens), had gotten better at “schmoozing” with the New York media, and consequently gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken Upper Midwesterner, never attempted to cultivate. Maris was perceived as surly during his time on the Yankees.

“More and more, the Yankees became “Mickey Mantle’s team” and Maris was ostracized as an “outsider” and “not a true Yankee.” The press at that time seemed to be rooting for Mantle and belittling Maris. Mantle, however, was felled by a hip infection causing hospitalization late in the season, leaving Maris as the single remaining player with the opportunity to break Ruth’s home run record.”

Much of the same sort of human psychology is at play here.
In this case, yours truly, an outsider, not a true paleontologist, and not a PhD, has created a large gamut set of cladograms for reptiles and pterosaurs. The expanded data recovers a different topology than smaller studies, often handicapping themselves by using suprageneric taxa. And not all of those smaller studies match one another. The new topologies featured here and here were due in large part to taxon inclusion that was not attempted in the smaller studies. No one should see this as a threat.

That same outsider (yours truly) also broke a cardinal rule among paleontologists, “You have to see the fossil.”  Due to the large number of specimens involved, I have not seen every fossil, nor will anyone else in my lifetime. Referencing the literature is also common practice. That’s what it is there for!

Instead, after concentrated study,
I have reconstructed every included fossil and compared one with another graphically. That is something most paleontologists don’t do or do only rarely. As you should expect of such a large cladogram, all sister taxa actually look like they could be related, something that is too often lacking at certain nodes in certain other traditional cladograms.

In my attempt at making sure all the data was verifiable,
I have traced photos of in situ specimens and reconstructed them. That, evidently, is a sin, but one that is getting to be increasingly popular. And like most paleontologists, I have made a few mistakes along the way. These seem to happen most often when working with images of low resolution. When alerted to those mistakes, and provided better data, I have made corrections. That’s should be considered, “a good thing,” just as it is with the new data on Pluto (note the earlier fuzzy images that still have/had scientific value). Unfortunately, like Roger Maris’s situation in 1961, the jeers keep coming, but the large gamut reptile studies have not arrived yet.

I encourage more reader feedback,
but please, make replies constructive and include data if you have it. I don’t want anybody to be embarrassed by brash comments as future data and cladograms confirm current findings. And if you find two taxa that should not nest together, please let me know where the errant one should nest. If there are any mistakes in my presentation, I want to fix them.



A few words from Steve Jobs.

If you’ve been following
the last four years of squabbles, debates, insults, dismissals, rancor, venom, name-calling and shunning, then you’ll understand why this video was posted. Click to play. 

Click to play.

Click to play. Thank you, Steve Jobs and everyone else who was ever labeled.

From the commercial:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Nesting turtles with pterosaurs redux 2011-2015

For those who don’t read the ‘Letters to the Editor’,
a recent comment on sister taxa inspired me to revisit the old experiment that nested pterosaurs and turtles together as a result of taxon exclusion, which you can review here.

By default nestings
can be interesting and silly. The point behind nesting pterosaurs with turtles back then was to examine the folly behind nesting pterosaurs with archosaurs — only possible due to a similar taxon exclusion that’s been going on for at least fifteen years now, following the publication of a phylogenetic analysis that nested pterosaurs with fenestrasaurs (Peters 2000) and has been ignored ever since.

Back in the day (July 2011) with 360 taxa,
when all other taxa were removed from the lepidosauromorph side of the large reptile treeProganochelys, the turtle, nested with MPUM6009, the pterosaur at the base of the Sauropterygia. That’s bizarre, but interesting and hopefully enlightening by analogy to the achosaur-link question.

Today,with 508 taxa,
and deleting all other lepidosauromorphs, the pterosaur now nests between Cathayornis and Struthio, the ostrich, + Gallus, the chicken. The turtle now nests with the frogs, between Doleserpeton and Gerobatrachus + Rana.

Hmm. Let’s fix that.
Let’s delete the amphibians and add the basal lizard Huehuecuetzpalli and guess what happens?

The three lepidosauromorphs:
the turtle, the lizard and the pterosaur, all nest together again in their own clade at the base of the Sauropterygia… in other words, nowhere near dinos, pre-dinos, parasuchians, Lagerpeton or Marasuchus. Delete Huehuecuetzpalli and Proganochelys nests with the turtle-like placodont, Henodus, as you might imagine, while the basal pterosaur bounces back to the birds. So one taxon in-between the turtle and pterosaur were needed this time to glue them together in a single clade and to trump the attraction of other candidate sisters.

Bottom line:
by including more and more taxa the large reptile tree provides more and more nesting sites, and thus the large reptile tree minimizes unwanted ‘by default’ nestings. Up to now other workers have been relying an tradition and paradigm for their taxon lists, and many of those traditions have been tested (and falsified) at When workers base their smaller, more focused studies on a larger umbrella study, they will have greater success and greater confidence that their cladogram is a good one = with no ‘by default’ nestings.

Much appreciated support ‘out there’ for

I found
a blog that repeated and supported Darren Naish’s diatribe, “Why the world has to ignore” That was answered in a multipart reply here, here and in links therein back in 2012.

The name of that blogpost is:“the-best-scientific-smackdown-about-evolution-youll-read-this-week. from If I read things correctly, the blog is hosted by Annalee Newitz under the topic Science Scandel, Newitz reports, “Since that time, he [David Peters] has become a bane of the paleontology community by insisting that he’s invented a new kind of technological analysis for fossils. And using this analysis — which he calls Digital Graphic Segregation — he believes he’s proven that pterosaurs are far more distant from dinosaurs in the reptile family tree than previously believed.”

The bane? Is that true?
As loyal readers know, DGS is a technique I applied a name to, but did not invent. Paleontologists, like Michel Laurin (1996), had been tracing photographs of fossils long before I came on the scene. And, as loyal readers (and all pterosaurologists) know pterosaurs don’t really fit will with dinosaurs. Just look at the fingers.

The Newitz blogpost goes on repeating Naish’s logic and images. What I found interesting were some of the blog’s comments. Most ganged on, disliked my web code or worried about SEO and Google robots. A few others took the opposite tack and urged caution before continuing the attack and those are re-printed below:

  1. KipHansen wrote: Nothing wrong about proposing an alternate hypothesis, certainly in a field as based on opinion as Reptile Evolution. I was expecting Naish to blow Peter’s out of the water with carefully researched DNA evidence or something equally scientifically strong – instead we get “I don’t see what you see.” — which, in all honesty, adds up to zero – zip – nada – and nothing. Certainly Naish can come up with *something* more concrete? In science, “I don’t agree with you and I am, after all, an Expert” doesn’t cut much ice. Peter’s may be full of it but Naish has done nothing to convince me of the superiority of his position.
  2. KipHansen wrote: “Is not Peters just proposing shifting some of these things around about? I can’t quite see what is so exasperating about some single person suggesting a different arrangement of something that we are unlikely to be sure about for some time yet. Just because paleontologists have finally agreed, at least for the time being, about reptile evolution doesn’t mean that we have finally ‘found the truth’. The current consensus is just your collective best guess based on available data and techniques and seems to be supported, for the most part, by what we know so far. This consensus will be shattered when someone makes a new remarkable find, or develops a new technique or method of investigation and is brave enough to publish an alternate view. Meanwhile, is there nothing whatever to the DGS techniques in the viewing of fossils, irrespective his interpretations? Is this a interesting new digital technique that could add something to our ability to understand rock encased fossils? Has anyone asked Peters to clearly mark his interpretation as an “alternative hypothesis” to a linked exposition of the consensus view?”

  3. KipHansen wrote: Annalee Newitz: You fail to mention that Mr. Peters, who you characterize as an ‘amateur paleontologist”, is the lead author on a half a dozen or so peer-reviewed papers in respectable paleontology journals. And not just in the 1980’s and 90’s. What’s up with that? Are you sure this isn’t just one of those silly academic wars where some outlier publishes papers in the journals but the entrenched consensus refuses to deal with them, instead resorts to ad hominem attacks via gullible journalists?”

  4. David Marjanovic wrote: “On a few things, he [David Peters] may turn out to be right. One of his first papers (yes, published and peer-reviewed) was on the origin of pterosaurs: he thinks they’re not close relatives of the dinosaurs (the consensus view), but close relatives of (to say it in a neutral way) lizard-shaped animals like Cosesaurus and Langobardisaurus. Peters is the first to have tested this idea by including enough species in a phylogenetic analysis; “the establishment” has never done this, because it’s too much work (it would be at least one complete PhD thesis). Unfortunately, Peters hasn’t put enough work in to this either: his analysis lacks several characters that support the consensus.”

  5. Alanborky wrote: “As an artist/visual type he [David Peters] sees and extracts vastly more visual data from whatever he’s looking at than a none artist (eg most people see a blue sky but artists see literally millions of shades and tones of blue as well as myriads of other colours derived from objects peripheral to their eyes bleeding into those blues subtly influencing how those blues differ in appearance as the eyes shift their focus around the sky) which’s probably why Goethe spotted the intermaxillary bone before none artists did.”

  6. jazzraptor wrote: “How has Peters “muffled” his opposition? Promoting ones own ideas is very different than censoring other people’s ideas. Disagreements about details of evolution are typical and ever-present in the field — not one bit unusual. Isn’t Peters entitled to his opinion? Obviously the guy has put a ton more hours than you have into his studies. And it’s not fallacious to ask for a better explanation for evidence than the one put forward. (Of course his request for competing hypothesis doesn’t mean that he’s right. But there’s nothing wrong with the argument. Ever hear of Occam’s Razor?) Your article looks way too much like a hatchet job. Science is tentative and provisional after all; how will you feel if Peters eventually gains consensus? I’ll answer for you: like an idiot.”

I also wrote a reply to the Newitz blog post. It follows:

Hi Annalee,  David Peters here. Sorry to be late to the party. In 2012 I replied to Darren Naish’s blogpost in a seven-part series that ended here:  You’ll find links to the first six posts within. A few quick notes here will clear up some issues.

1. The latest cladogram at includes 504 taxa and they nest in near complete resolution. All sister taxa resemble one another (you can see the reconstructions throughout the website), a great clue that that cladogram reflects actual evolutionary lines of descent. Add to that 59 therapsids and their kin plus 219 pterosaurs and their kin and you have the largest phylogenetic analysis ever attempted for reptiles. (That, I think, is the extraordinary evidence requested by Carl Sagan and one of your readers.)

1a. More characters would be great, as D. Marjanovic requests, but they are not necessary. Fewer characters will recover the same tree. 228 characters is enough to provide complete resolution as proven at Almost all characters can be correlated, like vertebral counts and limb lengths. Correlated characters are hard to avoid.

2. With so many taxa, you can trace the lineage of pterosaurs, or any included genus, back to Ichthyostega or to any node in-between. You can delete large branches or individual taxa from this tree and it will recover the same topology. The fact that this tree nests mammals (synapsids) in a different place than some DNA studies do is a problem that has not been resolved yet. You probably know that many DNA studies do not agree with one another. You may not know that embryological studies support a closer relationship between mammals and archosaurs than with turtles and lizards, which matches my cladogram.

3. Current and traditional cladograms (i.e. Nesbitt 2011) nest pterosaurs with parasuchia and proterochampsia, two croc-like clades that everyone realizes are bad matches for pterosaurs. Pterosaurs nest where they do in Nesbitt 2011 because he excluded the taxa that nest around pterosaurs at Some workers ignore Nesbitt 2011 and nest pterosaurs with dinosaurs, all the while realizing that there is no way the vestigial lateral fingers of even the most basal dinosaurs and their ancestors could ever evolve to become the long wing-fingers of pterosaurs. The same goes for the lateral digits of the foot.

4. The sternal complex of pterosaurs, as the name implies, is a fusion of the interclavicle, the clavicles and the sternum. My work with DGS shows how that happens in Cosesaurus and Longisquama, non-volant pterosaur sisters. Dinosaurs are not a more parsimonious match.

5. The fact that Darren Naish does not see both prepubes of Cosesaurus (in your illustration above) does not mean that everyone agrees with Naish. I encourage you and your readers to see for yourself at and let me know the consensus. Those prepubes are 2mm long in life, so they are tiny, but well formed. Naish reported he saw the stems in the photo. No sister taxa have such stems on their pelves. Those stems are the prepubes, even if Naish wants to deny it.

6. In Science we don’t ‘trust’ –anything– because in Science we can prove everything for ourselves. Many of the taxa I present are the reconstructions of others. Yet other taxa have never been reconstructed, so I’ve done the work with as much detail as can be gleaned from the best available data. You don’t have to trust those reconstructions –or– my color tracings. You are invited and encouraged to repeat the experiment, make your own observations and either refute or support any part or all of what I have presented. It’s simply a presentation. Rarely it’s an alternative. My best contribution to paleontology is simply adding more taxa to the cladogram so that more nesting opportunities are provided, minimizing the effects of bias, tradition and paradigm.

7. Digital Graphic Segregation (DGS) is a name I proposed for a technique that has been used by paleontologists for several years prior to my first attempt at it. Laurin (1996) used it in tracing Utegenia and I dare say anyone tracing fish bones and scales is going to trace a photo rather than get lost in the chaos of those repeating structures without some sort of mechanical aid. I use DGS to color every other reptile rib another color, again, to avoid confusion in a smashed roadkill. Then, I can lift those colors and move them around (usually slightly) to reconstruct the ribcage with the precision of the original.

8. I realize that D. Naish carries a lot of weight with the paleo-blog community. Unfortunately Naish published some of my work that has been in my trash bin for several years. In Science you can admit you made a mistake and you can propose a new reconstruction or cladogram to reflect the latest data. I have made tens of thousands of scoring errors in my cladogram, as I’ve reported at www. That also means I’ve made tens of thousands of corrections to past errors. With all of those corrections the tree topology has changed a little here and there, but overall, not so much. With 228 traits and 504 taxa the matrix can handle nearly 115,000 scores.

9. Finally, unless you have other unanswered questions, it’s true I have not seen for myself the vast majority of the fossils shown at However I’ve taken three trips to Europe, one to China and several others to USA museums to visit specimens and see them in person. Longisquama and Sharovipteryx both came to St. Louis several years ago, so I was able to study them both. I spent several days with Cosesaurus in Barcelona. Some of the rumors to the contrary have gotten out of hand.

Let me know if YOU have any issues that need clarification. I am here for you.

And I’ll give you the same challenge I gave Darren Naish. If what I’ve done is so off the mark, then the results cannot possibly make sense. The challenge is, please send me two taxa that should not nest together, but they do at If you do find two mismatches, please let me know so I can make yet another correction. If you cannot find two mismatches, I hope you’ll let me and others know that maybe what I’ve done has some value.

PS. I am not a professional web designer. I was an agency art director who wrote and illustrated some books in the 1980s and 1990s, then published, with peer review, a half dozen papers, some with co-authors. D. Marjanovic is correct that I have submitted several other manuscripts for peer review. They were rejected, not sent back to correct errors. Often referees note that what I’m proposing in those manuscripts cuts across traditional paradigms.

Thank you one and all.
The Internet is full of ideas and images. Decide for yourself which have value and which make the most sense. Feel free to follow the links above to see the original Annalee Newitz post and the replies that followed.

Laurin M 1996. A reappraisal of Utegenia, a Permo-Carboniferous seymouriamorph (Tetrapoda: Batrachosauria) from Kazakhstan. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16(3):374-383.

Back to posting soon.

My last post was a few months ago.

Not ill, on a honeymoon or in orbit.
I’ve been working on the reptile family tree, especially at the base. Better data has come along. Then one thing led to another and another and another. It’s been rewarding seeing minor problems disappear, yet frustrating as those solutions led to other minor problems at other nodes.

we’re going to have a better tree and more accurate reconstructions, some of which have already been added to Many of these will form the basis for future posts, some mundane, some mind-blowing.

Luckily there hasn’t been much news in the paleoworld lately.  Funny how things work out sometimes.

Be back soon… Thanks for your patience and support.

Dave Peters

Tsk. Tsk. New Cosmos rehashes 25-year-old evolution sequence from old Cosmos

Figure 1. Cosmos logo

Figure 1. Cosmos logo

In part 2 of the new 13-part Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, they presented a wonderful panorama of evolution — until they came to the end where they re-presented Carl Sagan’s original cartoon evolution of humans from single-cell organisms.

As one who has written a book on the subject, From the Beginning, the story of human evolution (Peters 1991), and constructed a website on the subject,, I know the sequence from 25 years ago should not include tunicates or any sessile organisms, spiny sharks and sphenacodonts. Too bad the producers did not update that.

We know better now.
After all, the WHOLE POINT of the new Cosmos is to UPDATE the old stuff!!!

The other minor problem showed Dimetrodon at the Permo-Triassic extinction event, which is not true.

Peters D 1991. From the Beginning, The Story of Human Evolution. Little Brown.


New Anti-PterosaurHeresies YouTube Video

As you all know,
I’m fine with criticism. It helps to fix errors and clear up concerns. I’m not fine with this 36-minute video on YouTube by someone disguised in sunglasses pseudo-named AronRa (Fig. 1). Details follow.

Figure 1. Pterosaurs are Terrible Lizards YouTube video. Click to play it.

Figure 1. Pterosaurs are Terrible Lizards YouTube video. Click to play it. It’s a history of paleontology until you get 32 minutes in. Then it turns libelous.

The caption for the video reads:
“Explaining how human preconceptions, agendas, and biases have negatively impacted the study of evolution and the classification of life forms. This is to illustrate why we have the peer review process.”

I was writing this while watching, so I’m speaking to AronRa directly in the text below, which now appears in his YouTube comments log.


Not much on pterosaurs here until 32 minutes in, but a good history of paleontology.

Contra your comment, Sharovipteryx is a complete fossil  with soft impressions.

At 32 minutes in
I was surprised to see my name mentioned. And then the libel begins.

Contra your comment, I never said everyone who has ever studied pterosaurs is wrong. When something is wrong, I provide evidence for the fact. And I’m quite specific in my criticism and my praise.

Contra your statement, pterosaurs do not have all the characters of the clade Archosauria. That’s why no archosaurs have ever been put forth as pterosaur sisters. And no archosaur has anything approaching pterosaur traits like a long manual digit 4, a long pedal digit 5 and clavicles wrapped around their sternal complex. Just the opposite in fact.

Contra your comment, I never said pterosaurs were lizards from the order Squamata. They nest as lepidosaurs outside of the Squamata. Mark Witton also made the same mistake in his book.

Contra your comment, I never said pterosaurs descended from “lizards with fully avian, double-veined flight feathers.” If you google that phrase, it doesn’t come up. Even fragments of that phrase don’t come up.

I provide photographic evidence, as in your Sharovipteryx example, so the evidence and interpretation can be tested by others. That’s good Science. The fact that no one else has repeated the experiment with an alternate interpretation does not give you the right to say “no one else has seen what Peters sees.” Everyone traces complex fossils and publishes their observations and interpretations! That’s standard practice. Moreover, I support my tracings with reconstructions taken directly from the digital tracings and all the bones fit into standard patterns of construction. So the fault is your believing what one person says, versus what another person can show. 

Contra your comment, I never said that Longisquama had feathers.

I did say Longisquama was a glider, but with pterosaur-like membranes (which you show after making the comment), not with feathers.

You say none of my observations of Longisquama’s hind quarters are evidently true. That’s because no one else has put in the effort. It’s as simple as that. Note that even without the parts I have added, Longisquama still nests between long-legged sister taxa with attenuated tails, uropatagia, a sternal complex, an antorbital fenestra and other traits shown in my drawing. So using phylogenetic bracketing would get you pretty much the same reconstruction. That’s called “multiple lines of evidence.”

Contra your assertions and the stories you have heard, I have traveled to museums around the world to see fossils with my own eyes, just like the other paleontologists. I have also been published in peer-review journals including Science, Nature, the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Historical Biology and others, just like other paleontologists.

You put in a lot of effort to create your video, but to what end? If you have any specific questions or need any clarification on any issue, please bring them to me and either I will set you straight, or you will set me straight.

For you to say my work is “wrong, and remarkably wrong” after planting so many lies, doesn’t make you look good. And supporting the work of Darren Naish (at Tetrapod Zoology) who used discarded ideas and the work of other artists to mock my work shows you’re not very careful about how you weigh truth versus fiction.

You picked on two traditionally controversial taxa of the 500 or so I have covered. If you have better interpretations, let’s talk about them. 

Blackwashing always backfires.


Here’s a short addition.

AronRa is a creationist debunker. His website is here. So why would he be trying to debunk a site  >devoted< to evolution?

I don’t know.

Minor changes to the large reptile tree

Adding a few taxa to the large reptile tree generally causes a reassessment of past scorings that stand out as autapomorphies. Some of these represent earlier mistakes. When the mistakes are corrected the tree can shift the nesting of taxa. Some taxa are only one or two steps away from a minor shift anyway, especially the incomplete taxa. So this can happen. No major tree topologies have changed, however.

Previously nested outside of the Archosauria, Turfanosuchus now nests at the base of the Dinosauriformes along with the PVL 4597 specimen attributed to Gracilisuchus, Trialestes and Herrerasaurus, which drops out of the Theropoda.

Batrachotomus and Saurosuchus
Now nest together. No biggie.

The nesting of the referred specimen of Brazilosaurus at the base of the Thalattosauria somehow shifted Largocephalosaurus and Sinosaurosphargis back to the base of the Sauropterygia (placodonts + plesiosaurs). These two are so different from their sisters, yet this nesting is only held in place by a few steps. And it’s still entirely possible that the dermal armors of saurosphargids and placodonts were derived independently.

The list of protodiapsids have arranged themselves into three distinct clades, shortening the phylogenetic distance between the basal synapsid Archaeothyris and basal diapsids like Tangasaurus (Enaliosauria) and Thadeosaurus (Younginids and Archosauriformes).

The basal reptile Cephalerpeton now nests basal to only the new Lepidosauromorpha. This makes the Reptilia truly diphyletic following the tiny Gephyrostegus specimen. Cephalerpeton shares more traits with those early captorhinomorph herbivores than the more insectivorous and lizardy Brouffia, at the base of the new Archosauromorpha.

Milleretta RC14 and Bolosaurids
Bolosaurids now nest separate from the caseids and the higher Lepidosauromorpha.

Odontochelys, still not a turtle
Odontochelys nests outside of the clade that produced Proganochelys, so developed its turtle-like traits by convergence based on the current list of characters and taxa. Another putative turtle ancestor, Eunotosaurus nests closer to caseids.

Tritosaurs up to 18+ taxa
Not bad for a totally new clade… Not counting all the pterosaurs, drepanosaurs, macrocnemids, etc. the Tritosauria now number 18 in the large reptile tree. Let’s put some more of these former oddballs and former enigmas into lepidosaur trees to confirm or deny this topology.

It just takes a little effort and a sense of wonder. And take off those blinders!

Watson’s (1957) View of the Reptilia

Long before computers,
paleontologists used their wits and lists of traits to tie taxa together in evolutionary sequences. Some nestings and match-ups were easy. Others were… not so easy.

Watson 1957 (Fig. 1) produced his version of the reptile family tree produced without the benefit of computers and matrices. In those days, if relationships were unknown they were unlinked in the graphics. Rarely is the entire gamut of the Reptilia presented, so here we have an early version of the large reptile tree.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Watson 1957, his view of the reptile family tree overprinted with yellow for the new lepidosauromorpha and with blue for the new archosauromorpha from the large reptile tree.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Watson 1957, his view of the reptile family tree overprinted with yellow for the new lepidosauromorpha and with blue for the new archosauromorpha from the large reptile tree. Notably, except for a few easily moved clades, this is not that far from the diphyletic tree recovered at

Some changes since 1957
In the large reptile captorhinids, caseids, pterosaurs, Milleretta and Saurosternon moves to the new Lepidosauromorpha. Hovasaurus, Tangasaurus and thalattosaurs move to the new Archosauromorpha. These changes are noted by the overlying colors. Still, all in all, not too far off the mark!!!

Some things did not change since 1957
Tanytrachelos, Tanystropheus and Macrocnemus nested in Watson’s tree (Fig.1) at the base of the lepidosaurs distinct from the protorosaurs. That shows some insight. Turtles also nested with the lepidosaurs. Protorosaurs and younginids nest in Watson’s tree at the base of the “Thecodontia” now considered the Archosauriformes, as they do in the large reptile tree. Watson assumed these groups all descended from the Millerosauria. The large reptile tree confirms this relationship, with the exception of the lepidosauromorph, Milleretta, which does not nest with the protodiapsid archosauromorphs Milleropsis and Millerosaurus, but is closer to caseids and turtles and lots of other rarely reported taxa.

From then til now
Nowadays we know the origin of reptiles goes back a little further than the Late Carboniferous. Furthermore, we can connect all the leaves on the reptile family tree without the missing links and with complete resolution.

Earlier a similar chronology of fossil reptiles using a computer-generated phylogram mated to a time chart was presented. It gives a fuller picture of Watson’s tree.

Missed this earlier milestone a few days ago: We’ve passed 800 posts here.

Watson DMS 1957. On Millerosaurus and the Early History of the Sauropsid Reptiles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 240: 673: 325-400.