An Early Triassic sauropterygian and associated fauna from South China provide insights into Triassic ecosystem health.


School of Resources and Environmental Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, 230009, China. [Email]


The timing and pattern of biotic recovery from the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction remains elusive. Here we report new material of the Early Triassic sauropterygian Lariosaurus sanxiaensis and associated fauna from the Jialingjiang Formation in Hubei Province, South China. Phylogenetic analysis based on a novel data matrix of sauropterygians recognizes L. sanxiaensis as a basal nothosaur. Stratigraphic congruence analysis shows that the new phylogenetic consensus tree matches to the stratigraphic distribution of sauropterygians very well. The diversified reptilian fauna and inferred simple food web in the Nanzhang-Yuan'an fauna where L. sanxiaensis was discovered suggest that the Triassic biotic recovery adopted a top-down pattern, in contrast to the prevailing view. Comparison with the Middle Triassic Luoping biota from the same carbonate platform suggests that the Triassic biotic recovery is delayed and healthy ecosystems were not established until the Middle Triassic in South China.

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