Article: A longirostrine Temnodontosaurus (Ichthyosauria) with comments on Early Jurassic ichthyosaur niche partitioning and disparity
We describe an almost complete ichthyosaur skeleton from the middle Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) of the Beaujolais foothills near Lyon, France, and assign it to Temnodontosaurus azerguensis sp. nov. This new species exhibits cranial peculiarities such as a thin, elongated and possibly edentulous rostrum, as well as a reduced quadrate. These characters indicate dietary preferences that markedly differ from other species referred to Temnodontosaurus, a genus previously considered as the top predator of the Early Jurassic seas. Despite a conservative postcranial skeleton, we propose that Temnodontosaurus is one of the most ecologically disparate genera of ichthyosaurs, including apex predators and now a soft prey longirostrine hunter. Ammonites collected from the same stratigraphic level as the described specimen indicate that the new species is somewhat younger (bifrons ammonite zone) than the most known Toarcian ichthyosaurs and therefore slightly postdates the interval of severe environmental changes and marine invertebrate extinctions known as the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. The present study therefore raises the question of whether postcrisis recovery of vertebrate faunas, including the radiation of Temnodontosaurus into a new ecological niche, may have been a consequence of marine ecosystem reorganization across this event.