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See detailA mysterious giant ichthyosaur from the lowermost Jurassic of Wales
Martin, Jeremy; Vincent, Peggy; Suan, Guillaume et al

in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica (in press)

Ichthyosaurs rapidly diversified and colonised a wide range of ecological niches during the Early and Middle Triassic period, but experienced a major decline in diversity near the end of the Triassic ... [more ▼]

Ichthyosaurs rapidly diversified and colonised a wide range of ecological niches during the Early and Middle Triassic period, but experienced a major decline in diversity near the end of the Triassic. Timing and causes of this demise and the subsequent rapid radiation of the diverse, but less disparate, parvipelvian ichthyosaurs are still unknown, notably because of inadequate sampling in strata of latest Triassic age. Here, we describe an exceptionally large radius from Lower Jurassic deposits at Penarth near Cardiff, South Wales (UK) the morphology of which places it within the giant Triassic shastasaurids. A tentative total body size estimate, based on a regression analysis of various complete ichthyosaur skeletons, yields a value of 12-15 m. The specimen is substantially younger than any previously reported last known occurrences of shastasaurids and implies a Lazarus range in the lowermost Jurassic for this ichthyosaur morphotype. [less ▲]

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See detailMesozoic marine reptile palaeobiogeography in response to drifting plates
Bardet, Nathalie; Falconnet, Jocelyn; Fischer, Valentin ULg et al

in Gondwana Research (2014)

During the Mesozoic, various groups of reptiles underwent a spectacular return to an aquatic life, colonizing most marine environments. They were highly diversified both systematically and ecologically ... [more ▼]

During the Mesozoic, various groups of reptiles underwent a spectacular return to an aquatic life, colonizing most marine environments. They were highly diversified both systematically and ecologically, and most were the largest top-predators of the marine ecosystems of their time. The main groups were Ichthyosauria, Sauropterygia, Thalattosauria, and several lineages of Testudinata, Crocodyliformes, Rhynchocephalia and Squamata. Here we show that the palaeobiogeographical distribution of these marine reptiles closely followed the break-up of the supercontinent Pangaea and that they globally used the main marine corridors created by this break-up to disperse. Most Mesozoic marine reptile clades exhibit a cosmopolitan, or at least pandemic, distribution very early in their evolutionary history. The acquisition of morphological adaptations to a fully aquatic life, combined to special thermophysiological characteristics, are probably responsible for these animals to become efficient long-distance open-marine cruisers. Generally, Early Triassic taxa were near-shore animals mainly linked to the Tethys or Panthalassa coastlines. By the end of the Triassic and during the Jurassic, the break-up of Pangaea resulted in the formation of large marine corridors connecting the Tethys to the North Atlantic and Pacific realms, a trend increasing on during the Cretaceous with the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean and the break-up of the southern Gondwana, allowing open-sea marine reptiles to spread out over large distances. However, if large faunal interchanges were possible at a global scale following a dispersal model, some provinces, such as the Mediterranean Tethys, were characterized by a peculiar faunal identity, illustrating an absence of migration with time despite the apparent lack of barriers. So, if Continental Drift enabled global circulations and faunal interchanges via dispersals among Mesozoic marine reptiles, others parameters, such as ecological and biological constraints, probably also played a role in the local endemic distribution of some of these marine groups, as they do today. [less ▲]

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See detailMary Anning’s legacy to French vertebrate palaeontology
Vincent, Peggy; Taquet, Philippe; Fischer, Valentin ULg et al

in Geological Magazine (2014), 151(1), 7-20

The real nature of marine reptile fossils found in England in between the 1700s to the beginning of the 1900s remained enigmatic, until Mary Anning's incredible fossil discoveries and their subsequent ... [more ▼]

The real nature of marine reptile fossils found in England in between the 1700s to the beginning of the 1900s remained enigmatic, until Mary Anning's incredible fossil discoveries and their subsequent study by eminent English and French scientists. In 1820, Georges Cuvier acquired several ichthyosaur specimens found by Mary Anning, now kept or displayed in the Palaeontology Gallery of the MNHN in Paris. Four years later, Cuvier obtained a plesiosaur specimen from Mary Anning, only the second ever discovered. Cuvier was fascinated by these fossils and their study allowed him to apply his comparative anatomical method and to support his catastrophist theory. We re-examined these important specimens from an historical point of view and herein describe them taxonomically for the first time since Cuvier’s works. The Paris specimens belong to two different ichthyosaur genera (Ichthyosaurus and Leptonectes) and one plesiosaur genus (Plesiosaurus). [less ▲]

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See detailMarine vertebrate remains from the Toarcian-Aalenian succession of southern Beaujolais, Rhône, France
Vincent, Peggy; Martin, Jérémy; Fischer, Valentin ULg et al

in Geological Magazine (2013), 150(5), 822834

A previously undocumented marine vertebrate fauna comprising ichthyosaur, plesiosaur, marine crocodilian and fish remains from the Toarcian-Aalenian succession at Lafarge quarry, southern Beaujolais ... [more ▼]

A previously undocumented marine vertebrate fauna comprising ichthyosaur, plesiosaur, marine crocodilian and fish remains from the Toarcian-Aalenian succession at Lafarge quarry, southern Beaujolais, Rhône, France is described on the basis of both historical collections and new discoveries. The taxonomic composition of the Lafarge quarry marine vertebrate assemblage highlights its cosmopolitan nature and strong relationships with taxa known from elsewhere in Europe. Several groups are recorded for the first time in the Toarcian-Aalenian succession of France, implying new palaeobiogeographic interpretations, and prompting discussion of marine amniote diversity during this interval. [less ▲]

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See detailMesozoic marine reptile palaeobiogeography in response to drifting plates
Bardet, Nathalie; Fischer, Valentin ULg; Houssaye, Alexandra et al

Conference (2012, September)

Mesosaurus Broom, 1913, from the Early Permian, is the first aquatic reptile known in the fossil record. Its co-occurrence in both South Africa (South Africa) and South America (Brazil, Uruguay) made it ... [more ▼]

Mesosaurus Broom, 1913, from the Early Permian, is the first aquatic reptile known in the fossil record. Its co-occurrence in both South Africa (South Africa) and South America (Brazil, Uruguay) made it one of the key-fossils - with the pteridospermatophyta plant Glossopteris - used by the German meteorologist / geophysician Alfred Wegener to support his theory of the Continental Drift (Kontinentalverschiebung), first published in 1912. But Mesosaurus was only the “tip of the iceberg” as, during the Mesozoic, various clades of reptiles massively invaded the aquatic, and more especially, the marine realm. They were highly diversified both systematically and ecologically, and some of them were large top-predators of the marine ecosystems. The main groups were, in order of appearance in the fossil record, Ichthyosauria (earliest Triassic – early Late Cretaceous), Sauropterygia (nothosaurs, pachypleurosaurs, placodonts, plesiosaurs; Early Triassic – latest Cretaceous), Thalattosauria (Middle-Late Triassic), Pleurosauria (Early Jurassic–Early Cretaceous), as well as, among others, several lineages of Chelonians (e.g. chelonioids, bothremydids, “thalassemyds”), Crocodyliformes (thalattosuchians, dyrosaurids, pholidosaurids, gavialoids) and Squamates (mosasauroids, “dolichosaurs”, marine snakes). During the Mesozoic, the palaeobiogeographical distributions and the dispersion events of these marine reptiles closely followed the break-off of the Pangea induced by plate tectonic movements. Although marine reptiles can help in determining the possible date of opening of marine corridors, the information they provide are less precise than that delivered by terrestrial faunas, as the marine realm is a more open system and various migration ways are always possible. Generally, the Triassic taxa were animals with a restricted palaeobiogeographical distribution living near the coastlines of the Pangea. From the end of the Triassic and during the Jurassic, the break-off of the Pangea resulted in the formation of large marine corridors, allowing open-sea marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and crocodyliformes to spread out over large distances. As an example, similar marine reptile faunas are known from the Jurassic of Europe and southern South America, as a result of dispersion events via the Hispanic Corridor that connected the Tethys / North Atlantic and Pacific realms at this time. During the Cretaceous, and notably with the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean, most of these reptiles were cosmopolite and open-sea forms (plesiosaurs, mosasaurid squamates, chelonioid turtles). However, even if large faunal interchanges were possible, some provinces such as the Northern and Southern margins of the Tethys were characterized by a peculiar faunal identity, notably concerning mosasaurids, despite the apparent absence of barriers. So, if Continental Drift enabled circulation and faunal interchanges, other parameters such as ecological constraints probably also played a role in the distribution of these marine reptile faunas. [less ▲]

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See detailA marine vertebrate fauna from the Toarcian-Aalenian succession of southern Beaujolais, Rhône, France
Suan, Guillaume; Vincent, Peggy; Martin, Jeremy et al

Conference (2012)

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See detailA longirostrine Temnodontosaurus (Ichthyosauria) with comments on Early Jurassic ichthyosaur niche partitioning and disparity
Martin, Jeremy; Fischer, Valentin ULg; Vincent, Peggy et al

in Palaeontology (2012), 55(1), 9951005

We describe an almost complete ichthyosaur skeleton from the middle Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) of the Beaujolais foothills near Lyon, France, and assign it to Temnodontosaurus azerguensis sp. nov. This new ... [more ▼]

We describe an almost complete ichthyosaur skeleton from the middle Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) of the Beaujolais foothills near Lyon, France, and assign it to Temnodontosaurus azerguensis sp. nov. This new species exhibits cranial peculiarities such as a thin, elongated and possibly edentulous rostrum, as well as a reduced quadrate. These characters indicate dietary preferences that markedly differ from other species referred to Temnodontosaurus, a genus previously considered as the top predator of the Early Jurassic seas. Despite a conservative postcranial skeleton, we propose that Temnodontosaurus is one of the most ecologically disparate genera of ichthyosaurs, including apex predators and now a soft prey longirostrine hunter. Ammonites collected from the same stratigraphic level as the described specimen indicate that the new species is somewhat younger (bifrons ammonite zone) than the most known Toarcian ichthyosaurs and therefore slightly postdates the interval of severe environmental changes and marine invertebrate extinctions known as the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. The present study therefore raises the question of whether postcrisis recovery of vertebrate faunas, including the radiation of Temnodontosaurus into a new ecological niche, may have been a consequence of marine ecosystem reorganization across this event. [less ▲]

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See detailExtinctions et renouvellements fauniques chez les reptiles marins du Crétacé
Bardet, Nathalie; Fischer, Valentin ULg; Jouve, Stéphane et al

Conference (2011, December)

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See detailA new longirostrine ichthyosaur (Reptilia) from the Toarcian of France broadens the ecological diversity of the genus Temnodontosaurus
Martin, Jeremy; Fischer, Valentin ULg; Vincent, Peggy et al

Poster (2011, September)

The ichthyosaur genus Temnodontosaurus has always been viewed as a top predator of the Early Jurassic marine environments, while other contemporaneous ichthyosaurs such as leptonectids and stenopterygiids ... [more ▼]

The ichthyosaur genus Temnodontosaurus has always been viewed as a top predator of the Early Jurassic marine environments, while other contemporaneous ichthyosaurs such as leptonectids and stenopterygiids were occupying the lower trophic levels. We describe here an almost complete skeleton of this successful genus from the middle Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) of the Beaujolais foothills near Lyon, France, and assign it to a new species of Temnodontosaurus. This specimen exhibits cranial peculiarities such as a thin, elongated, and likely edentulous rostrum, as well as a reduced quadrate. Such morphological combination indicates dietary preferences that markedly differ from other species referred to as Temnodontosaurus. Despite a conservative postcranial skeleton, we propose that Temnodontosaurus is one of the most ecologically diverse genera of ichthyosaurs, including apex predators, small and soft prey longirostrine hunters, and generalized forms. Ammonites collected along the described specimen indicate that the new species is younger (bifrons ammonite zone) than most known Toarcian ichthyosaurs and therefore slightly postdates the severe environmental changes and marine invertebrate extinctions that occur during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. The present study hence raises the question whether the speciation of Temnodontosaurus towards a new ecological niche, may have been a consequence of the post-crisis marine ecosystem reorganization. [less ▲]

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