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Redescription of the archosaur Parringtonia gracilis from the Middle Triassic Manda beds of Tanzania, and the antiquity of Erpetosuchidae

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Parringtonia gracilis Huene, 1939 is represented by both cranial and postcranial material collected from the lower Middle Triassic (Anisian) Lifua Member of the Manda beds in southwestern Tanzania. This aberrant taxon was previously proposed to have affinities with pseudosuchian archosaurs, and specifically with the enigmatic Erpetosuchus granti from the Upper Triassic of Scotland. Here, we confirm the close affinities of Parringtonia gracilis and Erpetosuchus granti based on the following unambiguous synapomorphies: mediolaterally expanded posterior portion of the maxilla, alveoli present only in the anterior half of the maxilla, and absence of tooth serrations. Furthermore, the two taxa share osteoderms with deep sculpturing, a deep fossa on the dorsal margin of the neural spines and a heavily waisted shaft of the scapula. We added both Parringtonia gracilis and Erpetosuchus granti into a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of early archosaurs and found that these taxa are clearly referable to Archosauria but that relationships are poorly resolved at the base of this clade. However, our analysis demonstrates that Erpetosuchus granti is not closely related to Crocodylomorpha, as has been hypothesized previously. The Erpetosuchidae are a clade of small-bodied archosaurs that have a poor fossil record but have members from both northern and southern Pangaea, ranging temporally from the Middle to Late Triassic. Thus, Erpetosuchidae is part of the early archosaurian radiation.

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