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Eocene Western European endemic genus Thaumastosaurus: new insights into the question “Are the Ranidae known prior to the Oligocene?”

  • Vasilyan, Davit JURASSICA Museum, Porrentruy, Switzerland - Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
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  • PeerJ. - 2018, vol. 6, p. e5511
English Background Amphibians, due to their ecophysiological peculiarities, have a physiology dependent on environmental conditions and sensitively respond to their changes. Here, the oldest record of the genus Thaumastosaurus is described, whose fossil record known exclusively from Western Europe is discussed in the scope of the climatic changes of 33.5–40.5 Ma. Results In the present paper, the fossil remains of the genus from three localities in Switzerland (11 samples overall) have been studied and referred to the species Thaumastosaurus bottii. Its stratigraphic distribution has been revised and summarised. The studied localities present the stratigraphically oldest and the most eastern occurrences of the genus Thaumastosaurus. Eocene probable ranids (Ranidae indet./Rana sp./? Rana sp.) from Europe could be referred to Thaumastosaurus. Discussion Their first occurrence of ranids most likely coincides with a warm phase of the global climate at 40 Ma, as tropical conditions were prevailing in Europe. As a result of the gradual cooling of the global climate, the tropical conditions in Europe were replaced by drier open habitats towards the latest Eocene at 34 Ma, when the latest occurrence of the European endemic genus Thaumastosaurus is known. Taking the fossil record and the climate evolution of that time into account, it can be concluded that Thaumastosaurus represents one of the groups among the vertebrates that disappeared during the large extinction event at the Eo–Oligocene transition, known as the Grande Coupure. The fossil finds of the genus from the studied localities allow to refer the previously suggested Eocene true frogs to the genus Thaumastosaurus, hereby stating the arrival of the true frog family Ranidae by the genus Pelophylax in Europe from the east at the earliest Oligocene.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
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