The affinities of the Late Triassic Cryptovaranoides and the age of crown squamates

Chase D. Brownstein, Tiago R. Simões, Michael W. Caldwell, Michael S.Y. Lee, Dalton L. Meyer, Simon G. Scarpetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Most living reptile diversity is concentrated in Squamata (lizards, including snakes), which have poorly known origins in space and time. Recently, †Cryptovaranoides microlanius from the Late Triassic of the United Kingdom was described as the oldest crown squamate. If true, this result would push back the origin of all major lizard clades by 30-65 Myr and suggest that divergence times for reptile clades estimated using genomic and morphological data are grossly inaccurate. Here, we use computed tomography scans and expanded phylogenetic datasets to re-evaluate the phylogenetic affinities of †Cryptovaranoides and other putative early squamates. We robustly reject the crown squamate affinities of †Cryptovaranoides, and instead resolve †Cryptovaranoides as a potential member of the bird and crocodylian total clade, Archosauromorpha. Bayesian total evidence dating supports a Jurassic origin of crown squamates, not Triassic as recently suggested. We highlight how features traditionally linked to lepidosaurs are in fact widespread across Triassic reptiles. Our study reaffirms the importance of critically choosing and constructing morphological datasets and appropriate taxon sampling to test the phylogenetic affinities of problematic fossils and calibrate the Tree of Life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number230968
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 11 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Cryptovaranoides
  • divergence times
  • phylogenetics
  • reptiles
  • squamata
  • Triassic


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