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Herpetocetine (Cetacea: Mysticeti) dentaries from the Upper Miocene Santa Margarita Sandstone of Central California

Two fossil baleen whale (Mysticeti) dentaries from the Upper Miocene (10–12 Ma) Santa Margarita Sandstone of Central California preserve several distinct features similar to the enigmatic herpetocetine whale Herpetocetus. These features include an elongate coronoid process, a mandibular condyle with a planar articular surface, and a posteriorly extended angular process. The dentary is unknown for several Herpetocetinae (and the more inclusive clade Cetotheriidae), including the coeval Nannocetus eremus. This occurrence would extend the known record of Herpetocetus by 6 Ma. Given the currently poor knowledge of Pacific Cetotheriidae during the Miocene, these specimens are identified to the subfamily Herpetocetinae, despite the similarity of these specimens to Herpetocetus. As the morphology of the supposedly distinctive lectotype dentary of Herpetocetus scaldiensis (the type species of Herpetocetus) may not be unique to Herpetocetus, this study suggests that the mandibular morphology of fossil mysticetes may be more homoplastic (or conservative) than previously assumed. Mysticete taxonomy should employ autapomorphic characters beyond the morphology of the dentary alone.

The carpometacarpus of the Pliocene turkey Meleagris leopoldi (Galliformes: Phasianidae) and the problem of morphological variability in turkeys

I describe the first known carpometacarpus attributable to the extinct late Pliocene (Blancan) turkey Meleagris leopoldi that was apparently collected with the type material at the type locality in Cita Canyon, Texas. Although known to previous workers, this specimen has never been discussed or described. The size and morphology of the carpometacarpus indicates that M. leopoldi may be distinct from the extant M. gallopavo and is similar to Meleagris progenes and Inglis 1A (Florida) material. However, this fossil does not clarify the relationship to and possible synonymy of M. leopoldi and M. anza, but it adds support to the idea that M. progenes is a junior synonym of M. leopoldi. The extreme morphological variation among fossil turkey specimens and recognized species obscures the phylogenetic relationships among Meleagris taxa. The presence of certain variable characters in geologically older Meleagris taxa may provide a clue to assess character polarity. Given these data, it appears that Meleagris leopoldi was a widely distributed late Pliocene species that was replaced in its geographic range by M. gallopavo during the Pleistocene.

The skull of Postosuchus kirkpatricki (Archosauria: Paracrocodyliformes) from the Upper Triassic of the United States

The skull of Postosuchus kirkpatricki Chatterjee 1985 is known from the holotype and paratype specimens along with disassociated skull elements from several Triassic localities in the southwestern and eastern United States. Recent preparation of the holotype skull allows for more careful examination of the cranial elements and comparison with related taxa. This description indicates that Postosuchus shares several previously unrecognized synapomorphies with crocodylomorphs, including fossae and foramina in the dermatocranium that are not present in other basal pseudosuchians. The sutural arrangements of the skull of Postosuchus presented in this paper differ considerably from previous descriptions, due in part to the reassignment of what was previously considered the prefrontal to the palpebral bone. Also, further preparation of skull elements revealed morphologies that differ from previous descriptions. This new description also indicates a close relationship with Polonosuchus silesiacus Sulej 2005. The only autapomorphic characters of the skull are a distinct, rounded lateral ridge on the maxilla and a foramen present in a large fossa on the anteromedial surface of the maxilla.