Temporal range: Guadalupian - Late Triassic, 265–200Ma possible descendant taxon Testudines survives to present
The Procolophonia are a suborder of herbivorous reptiles that lived from the Middle Permian till the end of the Triassic period. They were originally included as a suborder of the Cotylosauria (later renamed Captorhinida Carroll 1988) but are now considered a clade of Parareptilia. They are closely related to other generally lizard-like Permian reptiles such as the Millerettidae, Bolosauridae, Acleistorhinidae, Lanthanosuchidae, and Nyctiphruretidae, all of which are included under the Anapsida or "Parareptiles" (as opposed to the Eureptilia).
There are two main groups of Procolophonia, the small, lizard-like Procolophonoidea, and the Pareiasauroidea, which include the large, armoured Pareiasauridae. Smaller groups like Rhipaeosauridae and Sclerosauridae might be placed in either superfamily, or prior to both, although according to the traditional classification of Carroll 1988 the Rhipaeosauridae are classified with the Pareiasaurs and the Sclerosaurs with the Procolophonids.
Relation to Turtles
The Procolophonia are traditionally thought to be ancestral to the turtles, although experts disagree over whether turtle ancestors are to be sought among the Procolophonidae, the Pareiasauridae (Lee 1995,1996, 1997), or simply a generic Procolophonian ancestor. Laurin & Reisz, 1995 and Laurin & Gauthier 1996 define the Procolophonia cladistically as "The most recent common ancestor of pareiasaurs, procolophonids, and testudines (Chelonia), and all its descendants", and list a number of autapomorphies. However, Rieppel and deBraga 1996 and deBraga & Rieppel, 1997 argue that turtles evolved from Sauropterygians, which would mean that the Parareptilia and Procolophonia constitute wholly extinct clades that are only distantly related to living reptiles. However this is still a topic of debate.
- Carroll, R. L., (1988), Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution (incl. Appendix; Vertebrate Classification), W.H. Freeman & Co. New York
- deBraga M. & O. Rieppel. 1997. Reptile phylogeny and the interrelationships of turtles. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 120: 281-354.
- Kuhn, O, 1969, Cotylosauria, part 6 of Handbuch der Palaoherpetologie (Encyclopedia of Palaeoherpetology), Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart & Portland
- Laurin, M., & Gauthier, J. A., 1996 Phylogeny and Classification of Amniotes, at the Tree of Life Web Project
- Laurin, M. & R. R. Reisz. 1995. A reevaluation of early amniote phylogeny. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 113: 165-223.
- Lee, M. S. Y. 1995. Historical burden in systematics and the interrelationships of 'Parareptiles'. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 70: 459-547.
- Lee M. S. Y. 1996. Correlated progression and the origin of turtles. Nature 379: 812-815.
- Lee, M. S. Y., 1997: Pareiasaur phylogeny and the origin of turtles. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society: Vol. 120, pp. 197-280
- Rieppel O. & M. deBraga. 1996. Turtles as diapsid reptiles. Nature 384: 453-455.