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Print ISSN: 0031-0247
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Evolution et extinction des reptiles marins au cours du Mésozoïque.
Nathalie Bardet
Keywords: Crocodiles; evolution; Extinctions; faunal assemblages; Helveticosaurs; Hupehsuchians; Ichthyoaurs; lizards; Marine Reptiles; Mesozoic; Nothosaurs; Pachypleurosaurs; Placodonts; Plesiosaurs; Snakes; Thalattosaurs; Turnovers; Turtles

    An interpretation of the marine reptile fossil record, based on the existing litterature and complemented by the review of ancient collections and the study of new material, permits a better understanding of Mesozoic marine ecosystems. An inventory of the marine reptiles known from the Lower Triassic to the Paleocene is presented: 46 families, about 200 genera and 400 species have been recorded. This data base includes commentaries about systematics, stratigraphical ranges and geographical distribution of taxa. Marine reptiles include a mosaic of not necessarily closely related groups: ichthyosaurs, thalattosaurs, hupehsuchians, pachypleurosaurs, placodonts, nothosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs but also crocodiles, lizards, snakes, turtles. The diversity studies reveal that the fossil record of marine reptiles has been punctuated by two mass extinctions, during the Middle-Upper Triassic transition and at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. The Jurassic-Cretaceous and Cenomanian-Turonian boundaries (the latter marked by the disappearance of ichthyosaurs) are potential crisis periods, but current data are not sufficient to reach conclusions. The Ladinian-Carnian transition is characterized by the disappearance of 64 % of families and affects essentially coastal forms. This extinction coincides with an important regressive phase. During the Upper Triassic, a faunal reorganisation within marine reptiles leads to the progressive disappearance of near-shore forms and to the development of pelagic groups. During the Maastrichtian-Danian crisis, 36% of families died out. Large-sized pelagic forms such as mosasaurs and elasmosaurs were the most affected and their extinction seems to have been rather sudden. On the other hand, pliosaurs and protostegid turtles became extinct, but were already declining. The survivors were near-shore forms such as crocodiles, snakes and some turtles and they may have taken refuge in freshwater environments. A break in the food chain based on phytoplankton is proposed as an extinction scenario for pelagic forms.


  Article infos

Published in Vol. 24, Fasc. 3-4 (1995)