A gigantic nothosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Middle Triassic of SW China and its implication for the Triassic biotic recovery
The presence of gigantic apex predators in the eastern Panthalassic and western Tethyan oceans suggests that complex ecosystems in the sea had become re-established in these regions at least by the early Middle Triassic, after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction (PTME). However, it is not clear whether oceanic ecosystem recovery from the PTME was globally synchronous because of the apparent lack of such predators in the eastern Tethyan/western Panthalassic region prior to the Late Triassic. Here we report a gigantic nothosaur from the lower Middle Triassic of Luoping in southwest China (eastern Tethyan ocean), which possesses the largest known lower jaw among Triassic sauropterygians. Phylogenetic analysis suggests parallel evolution of gigantism in Triassic sauropterygians. Discovery of this gigantic apex predator, together with associated diverse marine reptiles and the complex food web, indicates global recovery of shallow marine ecosystems from PTME by the early Middle Triassic.