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Late Jurassic salamandroid from western Liaoning, China

  1. Neil H. Shubinb
  1. aSchool of Earth and Space Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China; and
  2. bDepartment of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637
  1. Edited by David B. Wake, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved January 25, 2012 (received for review July 14, 2010)

Abstract

A Jurassic salamander, Beiyanerpeton jianpingensis (gen. et sp. nov.), from a recently found site in western Liaoning Province, China is the earliest known record of Salamandroidea. As a Late Jurassic record of the group, it extends the range of the clade by ~40 Ma. The Late Jurassic taxon is neotenic and represented by exceptionally preserved specimens, including fully articulated cranial and postcranial skeletons and bony gill structures close to the cheek region. The fossil beds, consisting of dark-brown volcanic ash shales of the Upper Jurassic Tiaojishan (Lanqi) Formation (Oxfordian), underlie trachyandesite rocks that have yielded a SHRIMP zircon U-Pb date of 157 ± 3 Ma. The fossiliferous beds are substantially older than the Jehol Group, including the Yixian Formation (40Ar/39Ar dates of 122–129 Ma), but slightly younger than the Middle Jurassic Daohugou horizon (40Ar/39Ar date of 164 ± 4 Ma). The early fossil taxon shares with extant salamandroids derived character states, including: separated nasals lacking a midline contact, angular fused to the prearticular in the lower jaw, and double-headed ribs on the presacral vertebrae. In contrast to extant salamandroids, however, the salamander shows a discrete and tooth-bearing palatine, and unequivocally nonpedicellate and monocuspid marginal teeth in large and presumably mature individuals. The finding provides insights into the evolution of key characters of salamanders, and also provides direct evidence supporting the hypothesis that the split between Cryptobranchoidea and Salamandroidea had taken placed before the Late Jurassic Oxfordian time. In this aspect, both paleontological and molecular data now come to agree.

Footnotes

  • ?1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: kqgao{at}pku.edu.cn.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

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