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1 May 2015 First Occurrence of a Mawsoniid Coelacanth in the Early Jurassic of Europe
Hugo Dutel, Marc Herbin, Gaël Clément
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Coelacanths form a clade of sarcopterygian fishes (lobe-finned vertebrates) that today is represented by a single genus, Latimeria. This genus belongs to a lineage of marine coelacanths, the latimeriids, whose fossils are common in the Jurassic and the Cretaceous deposits of Europe and North America. During the same periods, another lineage of fresh/ brackish water coelacanths, the mawsoniids, occurred in South America, Africa, and Madagascar. Mawsoniids are supposed to have originated during the Triassic in North America and were assumed to have subsequently dispersed to South America during the Jurassic, before reaching western Africa during the Early Cretaceous. Previous hypotheses advocated that mawsoniid coelacanths reached Europe during the Late Cretaceous, suggesting the dispersal of freshwater organisms from Africa to Europe during this period. We here reevaluate this scenario based on the reexamination of the coelacanth Trachymetopon from the Early Jurassic of Germany. Although this genus is known from remarkably well-preserved material, its relationships to other Mesozoic coelacanths remained unsolved. An anatomical investigation shows that Trachymetopon shares many common features with the Late Jurassic—Late Cretaceous mawsoniids Mawsonia and Axelrodichthys from western Gondwana, such as the absence of a descending process of the supratemporal, the presence of ossified ribs, and the skull roof and cheek bones ornamented by conspicuous coarse rugosities and ridges. A phylogenetic analysis of morphological characters places Trachymetopon within Mawsoniidae. We suggest that mawsoniid coelacanths were already present in Europe from the Early Jurassic onwards, challenging previous paleobiogeographic scenarios.

© by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Hugo Dutel, Marc Herbin, and Gaël Clément "First Occurrence of a Mawsoniid Coelacanth in the Early Jurassic of Europe," Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35(3), (1 May 2015).
Received: 4 October 2013; Accepted: 1 May 2014; Published: 1 May 2015
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