Abstract

The poorly-known, long bodied, limb-reduced marine lizard Adriosaurus suessiSeeley, 1881, is reassessed. Adriosaurus and a number of other marine lizards are known from Upper Cretaceous (Upper Cenomanian-Lower Turonian) marine carbonate rocks exposed along the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, from Komen, Slovenia, to Hvar Island, Croatia. A revised vertebral count reveals 10 cervical, 29 dorsal, and at least 65 caudal vertebrae. The projections previously interpreted as hypapophyses are instead transverse processes. Openings on the anterior part of the skull, previously described as external nares, are probably internal nares. Important features not noted previously include accessory articulations on all presacral vertebrae, pachyostosis of dorsal vertebrae and ribs, and the presence of two pygal vertebrae. Phylogenetic analysis of 258 osteological characters and all the major squamate lineages suggests that Adriosaurus and dolichosaurs are successive sister-taxa to snakes. This is consistent with their long-bodied, limb-reduced morphology being intermediate between typical marine squamates (e.g., mosasaurs) and primitive marine snakes (pachyophiids). The analysis further reveals that up to five successive outgroups to living snakes (pachyophiids, Adriosaurus, dolichosaurs, Aphanizocnemus, and mosasauroids) are all marine, suggesting a marine (or at least, semi-aquatic) phase in snake origins. These phylogenetic results are robust whether multistate characters are ordered or unordered, thus refuting recent suggestions that snakes cluster with amphisbaenians and dibamids (rather than aquatic lizards) if multistate characters are left unordered. Also, the recent suggestion that Pachyrhachis shares synapomorphies with advanced snakes (macrostomatans) is shown to be poorly supported, because the reinterpretations of the relevant skull elements are unlikely and, even if accepted, the character states proposed to unite Pachyrhachis and advanced snakes are also present in more basal snakes and/or the nearest lizard outgroups, and are consequently primitive for snakes.

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