A NEW SPECIMEN OF TANYSTROPHEUS (REPTILIA PROTOROSAURIA) FROM THE MIDDLE TRIASSIC OF SWITZERLAND AND THE ECOLOGY OF THE GENUS
A new specimen of the protorosaurian diapsid reptile Tanystropheus is described. The specimen was collected at the Valle Serrata locality (Switzerland) and is of Ladinian (Middle Triassic) age. Its study elucidates some issues regarding the anatomy of Tanystropheus to be addressed, and allow to suggest hypotheses about its mode of life. In particular, the specimen is the first one in which the skin and other soft tissues can be described. In particular, wide patches of black phosphatic material, filled with small carbonate spherules are preserved, as it occurs in corpses lying in stagnant water due to decomposition of consistent amount of proteins. This suggests that a huge mass of flesh was present in the caudal part of the body, shifting posteriorly the center of mass of the animal and helping in balancing the weight of the neck even if raised off horizontal plane and out of water. In addition, no evidence of caudal autotomy is present in Tanystropheus and the structure of the tail and of the limbs are consistent with a shoreline habitat rather than with a fully aquatic mode of life.
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