The oldest record of Alligator sinensis from the Late Pliocene of Western Japan, and its biogeographic implication
The late Cenozoic fossil record of alligators in East Asia is crucial in understanding the origin and past distribution of Asian alligators that are now represented by a single species, Alligator sinensis. This study reports a partial skeleton of A. sinensis from the Late Pliocene (approximately 3.0 Ma) of western Japan. This Japanese A. sinensis is large in size (>200 cm total length), comparable to the maximum size of extant individuals. It demonstrates the oldest record of A. sinensis and wider distribution of this species in the past. Tectonic and geographic history of East Asia suggests that alligators presumably dispersed into Japan before 25 Ma or after 10 Ma, yet finally were wiped out from Japan due to the semi-isolated condition of the Japanese island arc and the deteriorated climate during the Plio-Pleistocene.