Miocene fossils from the southeastern Pacific shed light on the last radiation of marine crocodylians

Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, Diana Ochoa, Stephane Jouve, Pedro E. Romero, Jorge Cardich, Alexander Perez, Thomas Devries, Patrice Baby, Mario Urbina, Matthieu Carré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The evolution of crocodylians as sea dwellers remains obscure because living representatives are basically freshwater inhabitants and fossil evidence lacks crucial aspects about crocodylian occupation of marine ecosystems. New fossils from marine deposits of Peru reveal that crocodylians were habitual coastal residents of the southeastern Pacific (SEP) for approximately 14 million years within the Miocene (ca 19 to 5 Ma), an epoch including the highest global peak of marine crocodylian diversity. The assemblage of the SEP comprised two long and slender-snouted (longirostrine) taxa of the Gavialidae: the giant Piscogavialis and a new early diverging species, Sacacosuchus cordovai. Although living gavialids (Gavialis and Tomistoma) are freshwater forms, this remarkable fossil record and a suite of evolutionary morphological analyses reveal that the whole evolution of marine crocodylians pertained to the gavialids and their stem relatives (Gavialoidea). This adaptive radiation produced two longirostrine ecomorphs with dissimilar trophic roles in seawaters and involved multiple transmarine dispersals to South America and most landmasses. Marine gavialoids were shallow sea dwellers, and their Cenozoic diversification was influenced by the availability of coastal habitats. Soon after the richness peak of the Miocene, gavialoid crocodylians disappeared from the sea, probably as part of the marine megafauna extinction of the Pliocene.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220380
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume289
Issue number1974
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Gavialoidea
  • biogeography
  • longirostrine ecomorphs
  • marine crocodylians
  • phylogenetics

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