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Epiplastral and geographic variation in Echmatemys, a geoemydid turtle from the Eocene of North America: A multi-tiered analysis of epiplastral shape complexity

Numerous geoemydid turtle fossils from the extinct genus Echmatemys have been recovered from the middle Eocene Uinta Formation, Uinta Basin, Utah over the past several decades. Here, we tested whether co-occurring Uintan species Echmatemys callopyge and E. uintensis can be reliably differentiated based on epiplastral morphology, and whether their geospatial distributions overlapped significantly. The geographic spatial and stratigraphic distributions of Uinta Basin E. callopyge and E. uintensis specimens were compared using ArcGIS and analysis of variance (ANOVA). The analysis revealed overlapping geographic distributions of these two species, and no significant differences in stratigraphic dispersal. This finding of extensive geospatial overlap between the two Uintan Echmatemys species highlights the need for accurate taxonomic identification, such as the gular scale morphology validated here. In addition, we sought to address a methodological question regarding the relative efficacy of data complexity in this context. Using epiplastra from three additional Eocene species of Echmatemys, we employed hierarchical analyses of increasing data complexity, from standard linear dimensions to 2D geometric morphometrics to 3D laser scans, to determine the degree to which data complexity contributes to taxonomic assessments within this genus. Uintan species E. callopyge and E. uintensis were found to differ significantly in epiplastral shape as captured by all three categories of data. These findings verify that these two co-occurring species can be differentiated consistently using the shape of the gular scale, and that the use of geometric morphometrics can improve identification of fragmentary specimens. Among the non-Uintan species, dorsal and ventral 2D landmark data reliably differentiated among species, but the linear dimensions were less useful.

  • 2 supplemental files

A new Lyropecten (Pectinidae, Bivalvia, Mollusca) from the central California Miocene, USA

A new pectinid, Lyropecten terrysmithae n. sp., has been recognized in middle to late Miocene rock units referred to as the Monterey Formation and Santa Margarita Sandstone in the southern Salinas Valley, central California. Previously, L. terrysmithae had been identified as a flat form belonging to either L. estrellanus or L. catalinae, then more recently to Argopecten sp. The earlier assignments were based on its moderate size and a radial rib count nearly identical to these taxa. However, its hinge, flat unledged valves, looped lamellar growth lines, and hinge crura set L. terrysmithae apart from Argopecten and all species of Lyropecten. Localities where it occurs in the Salinas Valley that can be accurately dated are from the late middle to middle late Miocene “Margaritan” California provincial molluscan stage. While L. terrysmithae has been collected at other sites, those localities lack diagnostic age-specific species necessary to determine an accurate geological age and maybe older.

Faunal change in Cretaceous endemic shallow-marine bivalve genera/subgenera of the northeast Pacific

Endemic shallow-marine Cretaceous bivalves in the northeast Pacific region (NEP), extending from southwestern Alaska to the northern part of Baja California Sur, Mexico, are tabulated and discussed in detail for the first time. Twenty-three genera/subgenera are recognized. Their first appearance was in the Valanginian, and their biodiversity continued to be very low during the rest of the Early Cretaceous. The bivalves of the middle Albian Alisitos Formation in northern Baja California are excluded because they did not live in the NEP. The highest number (13) of NEP endemic bivalve genera/subgenera occurred during the Turonian, which was the warmest time of the Cretaceous. At the Turonian/Coniacian boundary, when cooler waters migrated southward, there was a moderate dropoff in endemics that persisted until an origination event near the beginning of the early Maastrichtian, when 11 were present. Five of the 11 were present also during the Turonian, but the others were newcomers. Only three survived the turnover associated with the “Middle Maastrichtian Event” (MME), and none survived the K/Pg boundary mass-extinction event.

First description of the fossil otolith-based sciaenid, Equetulus silverdalensis n. comb., in the Gulf Coastal Plain, USA, with comments on the enigmatic distribution of the species

The fossil otolith-based sciaenid genus Equetulus is known almost exclusively from South America, the Caribbean, and Central America, with the various species ranging in age from the late Oligocene to late Miocene. The only exception to this geographical distribution is the isolated occurrence of Equetulus silverdalensis n. comb. in the Belgrade Formation (latest Oligocene–early Miocene) in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the USA (North Carolina) and a mention of its occurrence in the Chickasawhay Limestone (late Oligocene) in the Gulf Coastal Plain of the USA (Mississippi). However, sampling of the Paynes Hammock Sand (late Oligocene, Chattian) near Millry, Alabama, USA, resulted in the discovery of an otolith representing the first occurrence of E. silverdalensis in Alabama and the first systematic description of the species from the Gulf Coastal Plain of the USA. These occurrences suggest a potential distribution of this fossil species from Atlantic Coastal Plain of North Carolina to the central Gulf Coastal Plain of Alabama and possibly Mississippi.

New dinosauromorph specimens from Petrified Forest National Park and a global biostratigraphic review of Triassic dinosauromorph body fossils

Dinosauromorph specimens from Petrified Forest National Park have been recovered from four major collecting efforts since 1982, including the most recent paleontological inventory of new park lands acquired in 2011. Additionally, an emphasis on understanding the stepwise acquisition of character traits along the dinosaurian lineage has helped identify previously collected specimens in museum collections. Here we briefly describe and use apomorphies to identify 32 additional dinosauromorph specimens found at Petrified Forest National Park, bringing the total number of dinosauromorph specimens presently known from the park to 50, a 600% increase since the year 2000. These specimens are all Norian in age and come from the Blue Mesa Member, Sonsela Member, and Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation. These include the proximal end of a tibia that represents the oldest unambiguous dinosaur specimen from the Chinle Formation. We then contextualize these specimens with the dinosauromorph assemblages from the Norian of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as the Carnian and Norian dinosauromorph assemblages from South America, Africa, and Europe. Despite increased sampling we still find no evidence for sauropodomorph and ornithischian dinosaurs in Western North America. An increase in sampling, combined with the use of apomorphies to identify collected specimens, will continue to improve the global dinosauromorph fossil record that can be used to answer questions on biochronology and the evolutionary history of the avian lineage.

  • 1 supplemental file