A Middle Triassic pachypleurosaur (Diapsida: Eosauropterygia) from a restricted carbonate ramp in the Western Carpathians (Gutenstein Formation, Fatric Unit): paleogeographic implications

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An eosauropterygian skeleton found in the Middle Triassic (upper Anisian) Gutenstein Formation of the Fatric Unit (Demänovská dolina Valley, Low Tatra Mountains, Slovakia) represents the earliest known occurrence of marine tetrapods in the Western Carpathians. The specimen represents a partly articulated portion of the postcranial skeleton (nine dorsal vertebrae, coracoid, ribs, gastral ribs, pelvic girdle, femur and one zeugopodial element). It is assigned to the Pachypleurosauria, more precisely to the SerpianosaurusNeusticosaurus clade based on the following combination of features: (1) small body size; (2) morphology of vertebrae, ribs and femur; (3) tripartite gastral ribs; and (4) microanatomy of the femur as revealed by μCT. Members of this clade were described from the epicontinental Germanic Basin and the Alpine Triassic (now southern Germany, Switzerland, Italy), and possibly from Spain. This finding shows that pachypleurosaur reptiles attained a broader geographical distribution during the Middle Triassic, with their geographical range reaching to the Central Western Carpathians. Pachypleurosaurs are often found in sediments formed in shallow, hypersaline carbonate-platform environments. The specimen found here occurs in a succession with vermicular limestones in a shallow subtidal zone and stromatolitic limestones in a peritidal zone, indicating that pachypleurosaurs inhabited hypersaline, restricted carbonate ramps in the Western Carpathians.

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