Saharastega moradiensis (Sidor et al., 2005; Late Permian; Fig. 1) is a large, flat-headed, temnospondyl basal tetrapod. According to the original reconstruction (Fig. 1) it is the only temnospondyl in the large reptile tree (LRT, NOW 362 taxa, not yet updated) in which the jugal has no posterior process and the quadratojugal contacts the postorbital. Those autapomorphies raised red flags that started the present investigation.
Figure 1. Saharastega fossil skull, tracing of fossil skull, freehand reconstruction, all by Sidor et al., followed by color tracing that finds nares at the concave dorsal rostrum and posterior jugal separating the quadratojugal from the postorbital
Taking the Saharastega freehand reconstruction at face value
Saharastega was scored and it nested with the coeval Nigerpeton (Fig. 2) which has dorsal nares and anterior fang holes along with a concave rostral profile. These are traits not shared by Saharastega according to the freehand reconstruction (Fig. 1).
Going back to the fossil
and colorizing the bones of Saharastega reveals a skull more like that of Nigerpeton than the freehand reconstruction indicates. It looks like the anterior nares of Saharastega may be fang holes, as in Nigerpeton. Both share dorsal nares and a concave rostral profile, together with a jugal that separates the quadratojugal from the postorbital. Note the placement of the internal nares relative to the external nares in Nigerpeton (Fig. 2). That pattern is more or less shared by Saharastega (Fig. 1).
Figure 2. Nigerpeton nests with its contemporary, Saharastega (figure 1) and has dorsal nares and a concave rostrum.
The two taxa, Nigerpeton and Saharastega,
are not congeneric, but they do appear to share more traits than the authors originally indicated. The crack across the rostrum in Saharastega somewhat obliterated the nares. Otherwise they would have not been overlooked.
Sidor CA, O’Keefe FR, Damiani R, Steyer JS, Smith RMH, Larsson HCE, Sereno PC, Ide O and Maga A 2005. Permian tetrapods from the Sahara show climate-controlled endemism in Pangaea. Nature. 434 (7035): 886–889. doi:10.1038/nature03393. PMID 15829962.
Damiani R, Sidor CA, Steyer JS. Smith RMH, Larsson HCE, Maga A and Ide O 2006. The vertebrate fauna of the Upper Permian of Niger. V. The primitive temnospondyl Saharastega moradiensis. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 26 (3): 559–572. doi: