The phylogenetics of Teleosauroidea (Crocodylomorpha, Thalattosuchia) and implications for their ecology and evolution

Michela Johnson, Mark Young, Steve Brusatte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Teleosauroidea was a clade of ancient crocodylomorphs that were a key element of coastal marine environments during the Jurassic. Despite a 300-year research history and a recent renaissance in the study of their morphology and taxonomy, macroevolutionary studies of teleosauroids are currently limited by our poor understanding of their phylogenetic interrelationships. One major problem is the genus Steneosaurus, a wastebasket taxon recovered as paraphyletic or polyphyletic in phylogenetic analyses. We constructed a newly updated phylogenetic data matrix containing 153 taxa (27 teleosauroids, eight of which were newly added) and 502 characters, which we analysed under maximum parsimony using TNT 1.5 (weighted and unweighted analyses) and Bayesian inference using MrBayes v3.2.6 (standard, gamma and variation). The resulting topologies were then analysed to generate comprehensive higher-level phylogenetic hypotheses of teleosauroids and shed light on species-level interrelationships within the clade. The results from our parsimony and Bayesian analyses are largely consistent. Two large subclades within Teleosauroidea are recovered, and they are morphologically, ecologically and biogeographically distinct from one another. Based on comparative anatomical and phylogenetic results, we propose the following major taxonomic revisions to Teleosauroidea: (1) redefining Teleosauridae; (2) introducing one new family and three new subfamilies; (3) the resurrection of three historical genera; and (4) erecting seven new generic names and one new species name. The phylogeny infers that the Laurasian subclade was more phenotypically plastic overall than the Sub-Boreal-Gondwanan subclade. The proposed phylogeny shows that teleosauroids were more diverse than previously thought, in terms of morphology, ecology, dispersal and abundance, and that they represented some of the most successful crocodylomorphs during the Jurassic.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2020

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