Trolling the Cretaceous Seas: Marine Amniotes of Two West Coast Margins

Polcyn, M. J., Jacobs L. L., Schulp A. S., & Mateus O. (2015).  Trolling the Cretaceous Seas: Marine Amniotes of Two West Coast Margins. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting. 55.: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 47, No. 4, p.55


In this session we review the Upper Cretaceous marine amniote records from the west coasts of North America and Africa. Recent work by our group in Angola, on the west coast of Africa, has opened up new fossiliferous localities, producing well-preserved turtles, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs, ranging in age from Late Turonian to Late Maastrichtian. These African localities were deposited in arid latitudes and highly productive upwelling zones along the passive margin of a growing South Atlantic Ocean. The fossil record of Cretaceous marine amniotes from the West Coast of North America is relatively meager when compared to the African record and the prolific fossil beds laid down in the epicontinental seas of the Western Interior Seaway and northern Europe. Nonetheless, these localities provide an important glimpse of a marine ecosystem that developed on the active margins of a deep ocean basin. Historically considered to be depauperate and endemic, the west coast fauna was characterized by unusual forms such as Plotosaurus, arguably one of the most derived mosasaurs; however, in recent years, additional taxa have been described, revealing species diversity and ecological partitioning within these communities and in some cases, faunal interchange with other regions. The large quantity of well-preserved fossils from the west coast of Africa is influenced in part by its paleogeographic position, deposited within highly productive areas of Hadley Cell controlled upwelling zones. By contrast, the North American west coast localities have been deposited in temperate and higher latitudes since the Late Cretaceous. Nonetheless, the North American and African faunas share some common characteristics in a possessing a mix of endemic and more cosmopolitan forms. Habitat partitioning reflected in tooth form and body size is comparable between the Angolan and the North American west coast, and there is remarkable convergence in taxa which appear to exploit certain like-niches.