Article: A new Oxfordian pliosaurid (Plesiosauria, Pliosauridae) in the Caribbean Seaway
A new pliosaurid, Gallardosaurus iturraldei gen nov. et sp. nov., was found in the Viñales area, western Cuba, in sediments of the Jagua Formation, middle–late Oxfordian. This new taxon is characterized by: wide participation of the premaxilla in the outer margin of the external naris; frontal not participating in the orbital margin; postorbital in contact with the jugal and squamosal; presence of anterior pterygoid vacuity; cultriform process of parasphenoid convex and exposed in palatal view; pterygoid flanges high; jaw articulation low relative to tooth row; trihedral teeth in cross-section and with smooth ridges at least in the labial face. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that Gallardosaurus forms a clade with Peloneustes, the most common pliosaurid genus occurring in the Oxford Clay. The Caribbean Seaway was, at least since the Oxfordian, a corridor that permitted the interchange for marine biota between Western Tethys and Eastern Pacific realms. Among vertebrates, bony fish and long-necked plesiosaurs prevailed. However, marine pleurodiran turtles, metriorhynchid crocodilians, ophthalmosaurian ichthyosaurs, and pliosaurids (G. iturraldei gen. nov. et sp. nov.) have also been found, as well as at least two species of pterosaurs, and one camarasaurian dinosaur. Among these reptiles there were off-shore pelagic forms such as the ichthyosaurs and metriorhynchids, together with the pliosaurid G. iturraldei gen. nov. et sp. nov.; other taxa were presumably less pelagic, such as the pleurodiran turtles and the cryptoclidid plesiosauroids. Gallardosaurus iturraldei gen. nov. et sp. nov. would have played the role of an active predator taking advantage of nectonic fish recorded in the area.