Although isolated Champsosaurus remains are common in Upper Cretaceous sediments of North America, the braincase of these animals is enigmatic due to the fragility of their skulls. Here, two well-preserved specimens of Champsosaurus (CMN 8920 and CMN 8919) are CT scanned to describe their neurosensory structures and infer sensory capability. The anterior portion of the braincase was poorly ossified and thus does not permit visualization of a complete endocast; however, impressions of the olfactory stalks indicate that they were elongate and likely facilitated good olfaction. The posterior portion of the braincase is ossified and morphologically similar to that of other extinct diapsids. The absence of an otic notch and an expansion of the pars inferior of the inner ear suggests Champsosaurus was limited to detecting low frequency sounds. Comparison of the shapes of semicircular canals with lepidosaurs and archosauromorphs demonstrates that the semicircular canals of Champsosaurus are most similar to those of aquatic reptiles, suggesting that Champsosaurus was well adapted for sensing movement in an aquatic environment. This analysis also demonstrates that birds, non-avian archosauromorphs, and lepidosaurs possess significantly different canal morphologies, and represents the first morphometric analysis of semicircular canals across Diapsida.
Scientific Reports
Department of Earth Sciences

Dudgeon, T.W. (Thomas W.), Maddin, H, Evans, D.C. (David C.), & Mallon, J.C. (Jordan C.). (2020). The internal cranial anatomy of Champsosaurus (Choristodera: Champsosauridae): Implications for neurosensory function. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-63956-y