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Thalattoarchon, giant ichthyosaur from Middle Triassic of Nevada



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new online paper with a new taxon Thalattoarchon saurophagis. This
appears to be the ichthyosaur featured some years back in a TV
documentary as I remember.

Nadia B. Fröbisch, Jörg Fröbisch, P. Martin Sander, Lars Schmitz, and
Olivier Rieppel (2013)
Macropredatory ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic and the origin of
modern trophic networks.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (advance online publication)
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216750110
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/01/02/1216750110.abstract?sid=f6d31bfd-8717-4b14-84e3-da0843c0a235

The biotic recovery from Earth’s most severe extinction event at the
Permian-Triassic boundary largely reestablished the preextinction
structure of marine trophic networks, with marine reptiles assuming
the predator roles. However, the highest trophic level of today's
marine ecosystems, i.e., macropredatory tetrapods that forage on prey
of similar size to their own, was thus far lacking in the Paleozoic
and early Mesozoic. Here we report a top-tier tetrapod predator, a
very large (>8.6 m) ichthyosaur from the early Middle Triassic (244
Ma), of Nevada. This ichthyosaur had a massive skull and large
labiolingually flattened teeth with two cutting edges indicative of a
macropredatory feeding style. Its presence documents the rapid
evolution of modern marine ecosystems in the Triassic where the same
level of complexity as observed in today’s marine ecosystems is
reached within 8 My after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction and
within 4 My of the time reptiles first invaded the sea. This find also
indicates that the biotic recovery in the marine realm may have
occurred faster compared with terrestrial ecosystems, where the first
apex predators may not have evolved before the Carnian.


News stories:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/01/130107-sea-monster-new-species-paleontology-science-nevada/

German release:
http://www.idw-online.de/pages/de/news513887