Portlandemys gracilis n. sp., a New Coastal Marine Turtle from the Late Jurassic of Porrentruy (Switzerland) and a Reconsideration of Plesiochelyid Cranial Anatomy

Background

Several groups of stem cryptodires became adapted to coastal marine environments as early as the Late Jurassic, 40 million years before the Pan-Chelonioidea. The Plesiochelyidae are a major component of this first radiation of crown-group turtles into marine habitats. They are abundant in many European localities, but their systematics is still greatly confused. Only three species are represented by cranial material: Plesiochelys etalloni, Plesiochelys planiceps, and Portlandemys mcdowelli.

Methodology/Principal Findings

In the present study, we describe a cranium and a mandible from the Kimmeridgian of Porrentruy (Switzerland), which we refer to a new species, Portlandemys gracilis n. sp. This new taxon differs from Portlandemys mcdowelli in several aspects of the cranium and mandible, notably in being generally more gracile, but the two species share a narrow skull, a more acute angle between the labial ridges on the mandible, and a unique configuration of the anterodorsal part of the basicranium. The cranial anatomy of plesiochelyid turtles is discussed in details based primarily on these new specimens and new cranial material of Plesiochelys etalloni from Solothurn, Switzerland.

Conclusions/Significance

Several characters (e.g., the contribution of the parietal to the foramen nervi trigemini, the configuration of the dorsum sellae and sella turcica, the presence of an infolding ridge on the posterior surface of the quadrate) appear as potential candidates to help elucidate plesiochelyid relationships. Some of these characters are included in a previously published phylogenetic dataset and help to stabilize the relationships of plesiochelyid turtles and closely related taxa. For the first time, our results suggest that plesiochelyids, 'Thalassemys' moseri, and Solnhofia parsonsi (representing the Eurysternidae) form a clade at the base of Eucryptodira.