Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fish near the Early Triassic Equator!

Romano, C., Jenks, J., Jattiot, R., Scheyer, T., Bylund, K., & Bucher, H. 2017. Marine Early Triassic Actinopterygii from Elko County (Nevada, USA): Implications for the Smithian equatorial vertebrate eclipse. Journal of Paleontology, 1-22. doi:10.1017/jpa.2017.36


The Early Triassic vertebrate record from low paleolatitudes is spotty, which led to the notion of an ‘equatorial vertebrate eclipse’ during the Smithian. Here we present articulated ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii), collected from the marine Lower Triassic Thaynes Group at three new localities in Elko County (Nevada, USA), which were deposited within the equatorial zone. From the Smithian of the Winecup Ranch, we describe two partial skulls of the predatory actinopterygian Birgeria (Birgeriidae), attributed to B. americana new species and Birgeria sp. Birgeria americana n. sp. is distinguished from other species by a less reduced operculogular series. With an estimated total length of 1.72–1.85m, it is among the largest birgeriids. We confirm that Birgeria encompasses species with either two or three rows of teeth on the maxilla and dentary, and suggest that species with three well-developed rows are restricted to the Early Triassic. From the latest Smithian of Palomino Ridge, we present a three-dimensional, partial skull of the longirostrine predator Saurichthys (Saurichthyidae). This and other occurrences indicate that saurichthyids were common in the western USA basin. From the early late Spathian of Crittenden Springs, we describe a posterior body portion (Actinopterygii indet.). This find is important given the paucity of Spathian osteichthyan sites. We provide a summary of Early Triassic vertebrate occurrences in the United States, concluding that vertebrate fossils remain largely unstudied. The presence of predatory vertebrates in subequatorial latitudes during the Smithian confirms that Early Triassic trophic chains were not shortened and contradicts the ‘equatorial vertebrate eclipse’.

Friday, April 28, 2017

An Early Triassic Starfish from Utah

The Starfish shortly after mechanical decomposition of a limestone slab in the field near Torrey, Utah.
Superstesaster promissor gen. et sp. nov., a new starfish (Echinodermata, Asteroidea) from the Early Triassic of Utah, USA, filling a major gap in the phylogeny of asteroids

Friday, February 17, 2017

Unexpected Early Triassic marine ecosystem

Our latest work.

Artistic reconstruction of the Paris Biota. Artistic view of the early Spathian diversified and complex marine ecosystem of southeastern Idaho as revealed by the Paris Biota (with permission of Jorge Gonzalez).

A. Brayard, L. J. Krumenacker, J. P. Botting, J. F. Jenks, K. G. Bylund, E. Fara, E. Vennin,
N. Olivier, N. Goudemand, T. Saucède, S. Charbonnier, C. Romano, L. Doguzhaeva, B. Thuy,
M. Hautmann, D. A. Stephen, C. Thomazo, G. Escarguel, Unexpected Early Triassic marine
ecosystem and the rise of the Modern evolutionary fauna. Sci. Adv. 3, e1602159 (2017).

In the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction, the Early Triassic (~251.9 to 247 million years ago) is portrayed as an environmentally unstable interval characterized by several biotic crises and heavily depauperate marine benthic ecosystems. We describe a new fossil assemblage—the Paris Biota—from the earliest Spathian (middle Olenekian, ~250.6 million years ago) of the Bear Lake area, southeastern Idaho, USA. This highly diversified assemblage documents a remarkably complex marine ecosystem including at least seven phyla and 20 distinct metazoan orders, alongwith algae.Most unexpectedly, it combines early Paleozoic and middle Mesozoic taxa previously unknown from the Triassic strata, among which are primitive Cambrian-Ordovician leptomitid sponges (a 200–million year Lazarus taxon) and    gladius-bearing coleoid cephalopods, a poorly documented group before the Jurassic (~50 million years after the Early Triassic). Additionally, the crinoid and ophiuroid specimens show derived anatomical characters that were thought to have evolved much later. Unlike previous works that suggested a sluggish postcrisis recovery and a low diversity for the Early Triassic benthic organisms, the unexpected composition of this exceptional assemblage points toward an early and rapid post-Permian diversification for these clades. Overall, it illustrates a phylogenetically diverse, functionally complex, and trophically multileveled marine ecosystem, from primary producers up to top predators and potential scavengers. Hence, the Paris Biota highlights the key evolutionary position of Early Triassic fossil ecosystems in the transition from the Paleozoic to the Modern marine evolutionary fauna at the dawn of the Mesozoic era.