A New Specimen of Carroll’s Mystery Hupehsuchian from the Lower Triassic of China

A new specimen of an enigmatic hupehsuchian genus is reported. The genus was first recognized by Robert L. Carroll and Zhi-ming Dong in 1991, who refrained from naming it because of the poor quality of the only specimen known at the time. After more than two decades, we finally report a second specimen of this genus, which remained unprepared until recently. The new specimen preserves most of the skeleton except the skull, allowing us to erect a new genus and species, Eretmorhipis carrolldongi. The new species shares many characters with Parahupehsuchus longus, including the strange axial skeleton that forms a bony body tube. However, the body tube is short in the new species, being limited to the pectoral region. The vertebral count and limb morphology considerably differ between the new species and P. longus. The forelimb of E. carrolldongi is markedly larger than its hind limb as in Hupehsuchus nanchangensis but unlike in P. longus. The new species is unique among hupehsuchians in a list of features. It has manual and pedal digits that spread radially, forming manus and pes that are almost as wide as long. The third-layer elements of the dermal armor are unusually large, spanning four vertebral segments, yet there are substantial gaps among them. With the addition of the unique paddle, it is now clear that Hupehsuchia had diverse forelimb morphologies spanning from paddles to flippers, unlike ichthyopterygians that were taxonomically more diverse yet only had flippers.