Palaeobiological significance of high-latitude Late Cretaceous vertebrate fossils from the James Ross Basin, Antarctica
James E. Martin, J. Alistair Crame, 2006. "Palaeobiological significance of high-latitude Late Cretaceous vertebrate fossils from the James Ross Basin, Antarctica", Cretaceous–Tertiary High-Latitude Palaeoenvironments: James Ross Basin, Antarctica, J. E. Francis, D. Pirrie, J. A. Crame
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A diverse marine assemblage of vertebrate fossils has been collected in recent years under the auspices of the British Antarctic Survey from Seymour, James Ross and Vega islands east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The specimens were derived from the Late Campanian Santa Marta Formation, Early Maastrichtian Snow Hill Island Formation and the Early–Late Maastrichtian López de Bertodano Formation. Sharks, teleosts, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs are represented, but birds and sea turtles are absent from the BAS collections; neornithine birds have been previously reported from the Late Cretaceous deposits of Antarctica. Shark teeth are relatively abundant, but teleosts are seemingly under-represented. Plesiosaurs (Elasmosauridae) are more abundant and complete than mosasaurs, and juveniles of both marine reptile groups are relatively common. The marine lizards, mosasaurs, are taxonomically diverse as elsewhere in the world, but with relatively few individuals compared to the plesiosaurs, which are taxonomically limited. A converse relationship normally occurs at other lower latitude Late Cretaceous localities. Some of these abundances and appearances may be due to collection bias, particularly due to difficult collecting conditions and weathering, but certain distributions may be the result of high latitudes.
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High-latitude settings are sensitive to climatically driven palaeoenvironmental change and the resultant biotic response. Climate change through the peak interval of Cretaceous warmth, Late Cretaceous cooling, onset and expansion of the Antarctic ice sheet, and subsequently the variability of Neogene glaciation, are all recorded within the sedimentary and volcanic successions exposed within the James Ross Basin, Antarctica. This site provides the longest onshore record of Cretaceous–Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic rocks in Antarctica and is a key reference section for Cretaceous–Tertiary global change. The sedimentary succession is richly fossiliferous, yielding diverse invertebrate, vertebrate and plant fossil assemblages, allowing the reconstruction of both terrestrial and marine systems. The papers within this volume provide an overview of recent advances in the understanding of palaeoenvironmental change spanning the mid-Cretaceous to the Neogene of the James Ross Basin and related biotic change, and will be of interest to many working on Cretaceous and Tertiary palaeoenvironmental change.