, Volume 101, Issue 12, pp 1027–1040 | Cite as

Ichthyosaurs from the French Rhaetian indicate a severe turnover across the Triassic–Jurassic boundary

  • Valentin FischerEmail author
  • Henri Cappetta
  • Peggy Vincent
  • Géraldine Garcia
  • Stijn Goolaerts
  • Jeremy E. Martin
  • Daniel Roggero
  • Xavier Valentin
Original Paper


Mesozoic marine reptiles went through a severe turnover near the end of the Triassic. Notably, an important extinction event affected ichthyosaurs, sweeping a large part of the group. This crisis is, however, obscured by an extremely poor fossil record and is regarded as protracted over the entire Norian–earliest Jurassic interval, for the lack of a more precise scenario. The iconic whale-sized shastasaurid ichthyosaurs are regarded as early victims of this turnover, disappearing by the middle Norian. Here we evaluate the pattern of this turnover among ichthyosaurs by analysing the faunal record of two Rhaetian localities. One locality is Autun, eastern France; we rediscovered in this material the holotypes or partial ‘type’ series of Rachitrema pellati, Actiosaurus gaudryi, Ichthyosaurus rheticus, Ichthyosaurus carinatus and Plesiosaurus bibractensis; a revised taxonomic scheme is proposed. The second assemblage comes from a new locality: Cuers, southeastern France. Both these assemblages provide several lines of evidence for the presence of shastasaurid-like ichthyosaurs in the Rhaetian of Europe. These occurrences suggest that both the demise of shastasaurids and the sudden radiation of neoichthyosaurians occurred within a short time window; this turnover appears not only more abrupt but also more complex than previously postulated and adds a new facet of the end-Triassic mass extinction.


Ichthyosauria Shastasauridae Rhaetian Latest Triassic extinction Turnover 



S.G. and V.F. are grateful to P. Van Peer, R. Speijer and A. van Baelen (K.U. Leuven) for access to the paleontological collections currently under their care. We also thank W. Van Neer and M. Coen-Aubert (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium) for supplying valuable information on the history of the Leuven collections. G.G. and X.V. thank our colleagues L. Villiers (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France), who allowed us to consult the collections of Derognat (University St. Charles, Marseille, France), and M. Schuster (University of Strasbourg) for scientific discussions concerning the sedimentology of the Cuers section. The reptile material from Cuers was prepared at the University of Poitiers. We thank also P. Orsini, F. Dussoulier and S. Giner (Natural History Museum of Toulon) for accepting the deposit of the ichthyosaur specimens from Cuers and interest in the project. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and editor S. Thatje for helping us improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentin Fischer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Henri Cappetta
    • 3
  • Peggy Vincent
    • 4
  • Géraldine Garcia
    • 5
  • Stijn Goolaerts
    • 2
    • 6
  • Jeremy E. Martin
    • 7
  • Daniel Roggero
    • 8
  • Xavier Valentin
    • 5
    • 9
  1. 1.Geology DepartmentUniversité de LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Earth and History of Life O.D.Royal Belgian Institute of Natural SciencesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Equipe “Paléontologie”, UMR 5554 “Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution”Université de Montpellier II Cc 064Montpellier Cedex 5France
  4. 4.Sorbonne Universités, CR2P-CNRS, MNHN, UPMC-Paris 6, Département Histoire de la TerreMuséum National d’Histoire NaturelleParisFrance
  5. 5.IPHEP, UMR7262 CNRSUniversité de PoitiersPoitiersFrance
  6. 6.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesK.U. LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  7. 7.UMR 5276 CNRS, Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon, Terre, Planètes et EnvironementENS de Lyon et Université de LyonLyon Cedex 07France
  8. 8.VitrollesFrance
  9. 9.Association de Recherches Paléontologiques du VarFox-AmphouxFrance

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