Nav: Home

When Britain was fringed by tropical seas

June 15, 2016

A team from the University of Bristol has shed new light on the creatures that inhabited the tropical seas surrounding Britain at the start of the age of the dinosaurs.

Some 210 million years ago, Britain consisted of many islands, surrounded by warm seas. Europe at the time lay farther south, at latitudes equivalent to North Africa today. Much of Europe was hot desert, and at this point was flooded by a great sea - the Rhaetian Transgression.

Published in Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, the Bristol team's work is the most extensive study yet, based on more than 26,000 identified fossils, of the Rhaetian shallow sea sharks, bony fishes, marine reptiles, and other creatures. Unusually, five members of the team were undergraduates when they did the work, and this was part of a series of summer internships.

The team was led by Ellen Mears, now a postgraduate at the University of Edinburgh, and Valentina Rossi, now a postgraduate at the University of Cork.

Ellen Mears said: "I studied the shark and fish teeth, and found remains of at least seven species of sharks and four of bony fishes. The sharks were all predators, but some were quite small. The bony fishes were unusual because many of them were shell crushers."

Valentina Rossi, who worked on the reptile remains, added: "We found teeth and bones of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, the classic great sea dragons of the Triassic and Jurassic, as well as some other reptiles, including a tooth possibly from a dinosaur - but it was heavily worn."

Professor Michael Benton, who supervised the students' work over the summers of 2014 and 2015, explained: "The students came to the project with no prior knowledge, but each one took on the task of identifying and documenting their group of fossils. They had to look at thousands of specimens and assign them to species, and then each contribute their part of the paper to proper professional standards. This is the eighth paper published from this internship scheme."

The new work has emphasized the complexity of major global changes, like this remarkable rise in sea level ten million years ago. It has been documented from dozens of localities in England, but also from central Europe. Careful measurement of the rock sections, and documentation of the fossils bed-by-bed allow us to reconstruct the to-and-fro of major animal groups over a few million years.

The fossils even include dozens of examples of coprolites, pellets of dung, hat were deposited by the various fishes and reptiles - some of these even contain bones and scales of fishes, and one even shows small bones of a marine reptile - clear evidence of who was eating whom in those ancient seas.
-end-
Paper:

'The Rhaetian (Late Triassic) vertebrates of Hampstead Farm Quarry, Gloucestershire, UK' by Ellen Mears, Valentina Rossi, Ellen MacDonald, Gareth Coleman, Tom Davies, Caterina Arias-Riesgo, Claudia Hildebrandt, Helen Thiel, Christopher J. Duffin, David I. Whiteside, and Michael J. Benton in Proceedings of the Geologists' Association

University of Bristol

Related Fossils Articles:

New 'king' of fossils discovered in Australia
Fossils of a giant new species from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites have been found on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Two tiny beetle fossils offer evolution and biogeography clues
Recently, an international team led by Dr. CAI Chenyang, from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported two new and rare species of the extant family Clambidae from Burmese amber: Acalyptomerus thayerae Cai and Lawrence, 2019, and Sphaerothorax uenoi Cai and Lawrence, 2019.
Newly described fossils could help reveal why some dinos got so big
A new, in-depth anatomical description of the best preserved specimens of a car-sized sauropod relative from North America could help paleontologists with unraveling the mystery of why some dinosaurs got so big.
Lilly Pilly fossils reveal snowless Snowy Mountains
Leaf fossils discovered high in Australia's Snowy Mountains have revealed a past history of warmer rainforest vegetation and a lack of snow, in contrast with the alpine vegetation and winter snow-covered slopes of today.
Molecular fossils confirm Dickinsonia as one of Earth's earliest animals
By identifying specific biomarkers preserved alongside fossils of oval-shaped life forms from the Ediacaran Period, fossils from which are typically considered one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology, researchers say the ovular organism is not a fungus or protist, as some have thought, but an early animal.
More Fossils News and Fossils Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...