Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-pxgks Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-05T18:54:15.264Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

First record of Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrates from Lithuania: phytosaurs (Diapsida: Archosauriformes) of probable Late Triassic age, with a review of phytosaur biogeography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2012

Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
GeoBio-Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Richard-Wagner-Straße 10, D-80333 Munich, Germany
Subdepartment of Evolution and Development, Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18A, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Banacha 2, 02-079 Warsaw, Poland
Institute of Paleobiology PAN, Twarda 51/55, 00-818 Warsaw, Poland
Faculty of Geology, University of Warsaw, Al. Żwirki i Wigury 93, 02-089 Warsaw, Poland
Geological Survey of Lithuania, 35 Konarskio Street 2600 Vilnius, Lithuania Vilnius University, Ciurlionio Street 21, Vilnius, Lithuania
Author for correspondence:


Fossils of Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrates from Lithuania and the wider East Baltic region of Europe have previously been unknown. We here report the first Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrate fossils from Lithuania: two premaxillary specimens and three teeth that belong to Phytosauria, a common clade of semiaquatic Triassic archosauriforms. These specimens represent an uncrested phytosaur, similar to several species within the genera Paleorhinus, Parasuchus, Rutiodon and Nicrosaurus. Because phytosaurs are currently only known from the Upper Triassic, their discovery in northwestern Lithuania (the Šaltiškiai clay-pit) suggests that at least part of the Triassic succession in this region is Late Triassic in age, and is not solely Early Triassic as has been previously considered. The new specimens are among the most northerly occurrences of phytosaurs in the Late Triassic, as Lithuania was approximately 7–10° further north than classic phytosaur-bearing localities in nearby Germany and Poland, and as much as 40° further north than the best-sampled phytosaur localities in North America. The far northerly occurrence of the Lithuanian fossils prompts a review of phytosaur biogeography and distribution, which suggests that these predators were widely distributed in the Triassic monsoonal belt but rarer in more arid regions.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adnet, S., Cappetta, H. & Mertiniene, R. 2008. Re-evaluation of squaloid shark records from the Albian and Cenomanian of Lithuania. Cretaceous Research 29, 711–22.Google Scholar
Andrade, M. B., Young, M. T., Desojo, J. B. & Brusatte, S. L. 2010. The evolution of extreme hypercarnivory in Metriorhynchidae (Mesoeucrocodylia: Thalattosuchia) based on evidence from microscopic denticle morphology. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30, 1451–65.Google Scholar
Benson, R. B. J. 2010. A description of Megalosaurus bucklandii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Bathonian of the United Kingdom and the relationships of Middle Jurassic theropods. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 158, 882935.Google Scholar
Brusatte, S. L., Benson, R. B. J., Carr, T. D., Williamson, T. E. & Sereno, P. C. 2007. The systematic utility of theropod enamel wrinkles. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27, 1052–6.Google Scholar
Brusatte, S. L., Benton, M. J., Desojo, J. B. & Langer, M. C. 2010 a. The higher-level phylogeny of Archosauria (Tetrapoda: Diapsida). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 8, 347.Google Scholar
Brusatte, S. L., Nesbitt, S. J., Irmis, R. B., Butler, R. J., Benton, M. J. & Norell, M. A. 2010 b. The origin and early radiation of dinosaurs. Earth-Science Reviews 101, 68100.Google Scholar
Buffetaut, E. 1993. Phytosaurs in time and space. In Evolution, Ecology and Biogeography of Triassic Reptiles (eds Mazin, J. M. & Pinna, G.), pp. 3944. Paleontologia Lombarda della Societa Italiana di Science Naturali e del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano, Nuova Serie 2.Google Scholar
Buffetaut, E. & Ingavat, R. 1982. Phytosauria remains (Reptilia, Thecodontia) from the Upper Triassic of north-eastern Thailand. Geobios 15, 717.Google Scholar
Buffetaut, E., Martin, M. & Monod, O. 1988. Phytosaur remains from the Cenger Formation of the Lycian Taurus (Western Turkey): stratigraphical implications. Geobios 21, 237–43.Google Scholar
Butler, R. J., Brusatte, S. L., Reich, M., Nesbitt, S. J., Schoch, R. R. & Hornung, J. J. 2011. The sail-backed reptile Ctenosauriscus from the latest Early Triassic of Germany and the timing and biogeography of the early archosaur radiation. PLoS ONE 6 (10), e25693.Google Scholar
Case, E. & White, T. 1934. Two new specimens of phytosaurs from the Upper Triassic of western Texas. Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan 4, 133–42.Google Scholar
Chatterjee, S. 1978. A primitive parasuchid (phytosaur) reptile from the upper Triassic Maleri Formation of India. Palaeontology 21, 83127.Google Scholar
Cope, E. D. 1869. Synopsis of the extinct Batrachia, Reptilia and Aves of North America. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 14, 1252.Google Scholar
Currie, P. J., Rigby, J. K. & Sloan, R. E. 1990. Theropod teeth from the Judith River Formation of southern Alberta, Canada. In Dinosaur Systematics: Perspectives and Approaches (eds Carpenter, K. & Currie, P. J.), pp. 107–25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Dalinkevičius, J. A. 1935. On the fossil fishes of the Lithuanian Chalk. I. Selachii. Vytauto Didžiojo Universiteto Matematikos-Gamtos Fakulteto Darbai. Mémoires de la Faculté des Sciences de l'Université de Vytautas le Grand 9, ii + 243305.Google Scholar
Doyle, K. D. & Sues, H.-D. 1995. Phytosaurs (Reptilia: Archosauria) from the Upper Triassic New Oxford Formation of York County, Pennsylvania. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 15, 545–53.Google Scholar
Duituit, J.-M. 1977 a. Description du crâne de Angistorhinus talainti n. sp. un nouveau Phytosaure du Trais atlasique marocain. Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (3e Série) 489, 288337.Google Scholar
Dutuit, J.-M. 1977 b. Paleorhinus magnoculus, phytosaure du Trias supérieur de l'Atlas marocain. Géologie Méditerranéenne 4, 255–68.Google Scholar
Dutuit, J.-M. 1978. Description de quelques fragments osseux provenant de la region Folakara (Trias superieur malgache). Bulletin du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Sciences de la Terre 516, 7989.Google Scholar
Dzik, J. 2001. A new Paleorhinus fauna in the early Late Triassic of Poland. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21, 625–7.Google Scholar
Dzik, J. & Sulej, T. 2007. A review of the early Late Triassic Krasiejow biota from Silesia, Poland. Palaeontologica Polonica 64, 327.Google Scholar
Gauthier, J. A. 1986. Saurischian monophyly and the origin of birds. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences 8, 155.Google Scholar
Gauthier, J. A., Kluge, A. G. & Rowe, T. 1988. Amniote phylogeny and the importance of fossils. Cladistics 4, 105209.Google Scholar
Gregory, J. T. & Westphal, F. 1969. Remarks on the phytosaur genera of the European Trias. Journal of Paleontology 43, 1296–8.Google Scholar
Hungerbühler, A. 2000. Heterodonty in the European phytosaur Nicrosaurus kapffi and its implications for the taxonomic utility and functional morphology of phytosaur dentitions. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20, 3148.Google Scholar
Hungerbühler, A. 2002. The Late Triassic phytosaur Mystriosuchus westphali, with a revision of the genus. Palaeontology 45, 377418.Google Scholar
Hungerbühler, A. & Hunt, A. P. 2000. Two new phytosaur species (Archosauria, Crurotarsi) from the Upper Triassic of Southwest Germany. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte 2000, 467–84.Google Scholar
Jenkins, F. A., Shubin, N. H., Amaral, W. W., Gatesy, S. M., Schaff, C. R., Clemmensen, L. B., Downs, W. R., Davidson, A. R., Bonde, N. & Osbaeck, F. 1994. Late Triassic continental vertebrates and depositional environments of the Fleming Fjord Formation, Jameson Land, East Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland, Geoscience 32, 125.Google Scholar
Karatajute-Talimaa, V. & Katinas, V. 2004. Occurrence of Triassic fishes in the East Baltic Region. In Mesozoic Fishes 3 – Systematics, Paleoenvironments and Biodiversity (eds Arratia, G. & Tintori, A.), pp. 529–34. Munich: Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil.Google Scholar
Katinas, V. & Nawrocki, J. 2006. Application of magnetic susceptibility for correlation of the Lower Triassic red beds of the Baltic basin. Geologija 56, 53–9.Google Scholar
Kischlat, E.-E. & Lucas, S. G. 2003. A phytosaur from the Upper Triassic of Brazil. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23, 464–7.Google Scholar
Kozur, H. & Weems, R. E. 2010. The biostratigraphic importance of conchostracans in the continental Triassic of the northern hemisphere. In The Triassic Timescale (ed. Lucas, S. G.), pp. 315417. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 334.Google Scholar
Langer, M. C., Ezcurra, M. D., Bittencourt, J. S. & Novas, F. E. 2010. The origin and early evolution of dinosaurs. Biological Reviews 85, 55110.Google Scholar
Lees, J. H. 1907. The skull of Paleorhinus, a Wyoming phytosaur. Journal of Geology 15, 121–51.Google Scholar
Long, R. A. & Murry, P. A. 1995. Late Triassic (Carnian and Norian) tetrapods from the southwestern United States. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 4, 1254.Google Scholar
Markwick, P. J. 1998. Crocodilian diversity in space and time: the role of climate in paleoecology and its implication for understanding K/T extinctions. Paleobiology 24, 470–97.Google Scholar
Mehl, M. G. 1928. Pseudopalatus pristinus, a new genus and species of phytosaurs from Arizona. University of Missouri Studies 3, 325.Google Scholar
Meyer, H. von. 1861. Reptilien aus dem Stubensandstein des oberen Keupers. Palaeontographica A 6, 253346.Google Scholar
Mikaila, V. 1971. The mode of occurrence of Triassic sediments of north Lithuania and predicted areas of clay deposits. Perspective Mineral Products of South Baltic Region 18, 4552.Google Scholar
Nesbitt, S. J. 2011. The early evolution of archosaurs: relationships and the origin of major clades. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 352, 1292.Google Scholar
Osborn, H. F. 1903. The reptilian subclasses Diapsida and Synapsida and the early history of the Diaptosauria. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History 1, 451519.Google Scholar
Paškevičius, J. 1997. The Geology of the Baltic Republics. Vilnius: Vilnius University and the Geological Survey of Lithuania.Google Scholar
Preto, N., Kustatscher, E. & Wignall, P. B. 2010. Triassic climates – state of the art and perspectives. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 290, 110.Google Scholar
Rajeckas, R. & Saulėnas, V. 1977. Exploration and prospecting of mineral resources. In Works of Geologists in Soviet Lithuania, pp. 25–37.Google Scholar
Salamon, M. A. 2008. The Callovian (Middle Jurassic) crinoids from northern Lithuania. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 82/83, 269–78.Google Scholar
Satkūnas, J. (ed.) 2009. Excursion Guide: Biodiversity and Geodiversity, Landscapes, Nature Resources and Present-day Management in Lithuania. Vilnius: Geological Survey of Lithuania, 24 pp.Google Scholar
Satkūnas, J. & Nicius, A. 2008. Geological heritage of Venta River Valley, Lithuania. In Excursion Guide: International Conference ProGEO WG Northern Europe, Papile, Venta Regional Park (ed. Satkūnas, J.), pp. 1736. Vilnius: Geological Survey of Lithuania.Google Scholar
Schubert, B. W. & Ungar, P. S. 2005. Wear facets and enamel spalling in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50, 93–9.Google Scholar
Sellwood, B. W. & Valdes, P. J. 2006. Mesozoic climates: general circulation models and the rock record. Sedimentary Geology 190, 269–87.Google Scholar
Sereno, P. C. 1991. Basal archosaurs: phylogenetic relationships and functional implications. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 2, 153.Google Scholar
Sereno, P. C., McAllister, S. & Brusatte, S. L. 2005. TaxonSearch: a relational database for suprageneric taxa and phylogenetic definitions. PhyloInformatics 8, 121.Google Scholar
Shubin, N. H. & Sues, H.-D. 1991. Biogeography of early Mesozoic continental tetrapods: patterns and implications. Paleobiology 17, 214–30.Google Scholar
Šliaupa, S. & Čyžienė, J. 2000. Lower Triassic sediments in southwestern Lithuania: correlation of near-shore and intrabasin lithofacies. Geologija 31, 4151.Google Scholar
Stocker, M. R. 2010. A new taxon of phytosaur (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia) from the Late Triassic (Norian) Sonsela Member (Chinle Formation) in Arizona, and a critical reevaluation of Leptosaurus Case, 1922. Palaeontology 53, 9971022.Google Scholar
Sues, H.-D. & Fraser, N. C. 2010. Triassic Life on Land. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Suveizdis, P. 1994. Lietuvos Geologija. Vilnius: Lithuanian Geological Institute.Google Scholar
Ūsaitytė, D. 2000. The geology of the southeastern Baltic Sea: a review. Earth-Science Reviews 50, 137225.Google Scholar
Witmer, L. M. 1997. The evolution of the antorbital cavity of archosaurs: a study in soft-tissue reconstruction in the fossil record with an analysis of the function of pneumaticity. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 3, 173.Google Scholar
Young, M. T., Brusatte, S. L., Beatty, B. L., Andrade, M. B. & Desojo, J. B. 2012. Tooth-on-tooth interlocking occlusion suggests macrophagy in the Mesozoic marine crocodylomorph Dakosaurus. The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 295, 1147–58.Google Scholar