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Mesozoic marine reptile palaeobiogeography in response to drifting plates



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com

A new online paper:

N. Bardet, J. Falconnet, V. Fischer, A. Houssaye, S. Jouve, X. Pereda
Suberbiola, A. Pérez-García, J.-C. Rage, P. Vincent
Mesozoic marine reptile palaeobiogeography in response to drifting plates.
To Alfred Wegener (1880-1930)
Gondwana Research (advance online publication)
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gr.2014.05.005
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1342937X1400183X



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.



Highlights

Reptiles underwent a spectacular return to an aquatic life during the Mesozoic.
Their palaeobiogeographical distribution closely followed the break-up
of Pangaea.
They globally used the marine corridors created by this break-up to disperse.