A new species of Pteronisculus from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) of Luoping, Yunnan, China, and phylogenetic relationships of early actinopterygian fishes
REN Yi，XU Guang-Hui
Abstract Actinopterygii, the largest group of extant vertebrates, includes Cladistia, Actinopteri (Chondrostei plus Neopterygii) and closely related fossil taxa. The extinct genus Pteronisculus belongs to a stem lineage of actinopterygian fishes represented by 11 species from the Early Triassic of Madagascar, Europe and North America, and a single species from the early Middle Triassic of China. Here, we report the discovery of a new species of this genus, Pteronisculus changae, on the basis of five well-preserved specimens from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) marine deposits exposed in Luoping, eastern Yunnan, China. The discovery documents the second convincing species of Pteronisculus in the Middle Triassic and the largest stem actinopterygian fish in the Luoping Biota, having a maximum total length of up to 295 mm. The new species possesses a toothed lacrimal, which is characteristic of Pteronisculus, but it is easily distinguished from other species of the genus by some autapomorphies, e.g., a medial process at the middle portion of the intertemporal, 21 supraneurals, and 83 lateral line scales. The results of our cladistic analysis provide new insights into the relationships of early actinopterygians and recover Pteronisculus as a sister taxon of the Carboniferous rhadinichthyid Cyranorhis at the actinopterygian stem. Based on the body form, teeth and other features, it can be deduced that Pteronisculus changae is likely a relatively fast-swimming predator, feeding on planktonic invertebrates and smaller or younger fishes known to occur in the same biota. As one of the youngest species of the genus, the new species provides additional evidence to suggest that the diversity of Pteronisculus is higher than previously thought and that the eastern Paleotethys Ocean likely constituted a refuge for species of this genus during the early Middle Triassic.
Key words Luoping, Yunnan; Middle Triassic; Pteronisculus, Actinopterygii; phylogeny