Abstract

The Early Jurassic Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event is considered one of the most dramatic environmental perturbations of the Mesozoic. An elevated extinction rate among marine invertebrates accompanied rapid environmental changes, but effects on large vertebrates are less understood. We examined changes in ichthyosaur body size in the Posidonia Shale of the Southwest German Basin spanning the extinction interval to assess how environmental changes and biotic crisis among prey species affected large reptiles. We report no species-level extinction among the ichthyosaurs coinciding with peak invertebrate extinction. Large ichthyosaurs were absent from the fauna during the extinction interval, but became more abundant in the immediate aftermath. Stenopterygius quadriscissus, the most abundant species during the extinction interval, increased in body size after the biotic event. Rapid invasion by large taxa occurred immediately following the extinction event at the end of the first ammonite zone of the early Toarcian. Greater mobility permitting exploitation of ephemeral resources and opportunistic feeding behavior may minimize the impacts of environmental change on large vertebrates.

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