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New data on the palaeobiogeography of Early Jurassic marine reptiles: the Toarcian ichthyosaur fauna of the Vocontian Basin (SE France)

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The Vocontian Basin (SE France) was formed along the northwestern border of Tethys during Mesozoic times. Mainly known for its rich ammonite fauna, this basin has also yielded several Lower Jurassic ichthyosaurs. The specimens discussed here were discovered in lower Toarcian limestone and marl successions in the vicinity of Digne-les-Bains, High-Provence Alps. The best-preserved specimen is identified as Suevoleviathan sp., a rare taxon previously reported only in southern Germany. Along with this specimen, premaxillae and paddle elements of Eurhinosaurus sp. and probable Stenopterygiidae centra were found in neighbouring localities. These specimens were preserved thanks to the deposition of soft anoxic marls or calcarodetritic sediments, coeval with other anoxic shales in Europe (the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event or T-OAE), which allows faunal comparisons between these basins. The localities from the Vocontian Basin are closer to the Tethys than any other sites where identifiable Toarcian ichthyosaurs have been found in Europe. Nevertheless, the Vocontian ichthyosaur assemblage is strikingly similar to those of other basins across Europe. This suggests a wide palaeobiogeographical distribution for Toarcian ichthyosaurs, reflecting their anatomical adaptations as highly mobile swimmers.
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Keywords: ICHTHYOSAURIA; PALAEOBIOGEOGRAPHY; SOUTH-EASTERN FRANCE; SUEVOLEVIATHAN; TOARCIAN; VOCONTIAN BASIN

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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