Abstract

Some Cretaceous dinosaur taxa with a broad enough record on the continents of the northern hemisphere (Laurasia) or in the southern continents (Gondwana) have been interpreted as Laurasian or Gondwanan in origin. The occasional presence of these taxa outside Laurasia or Gondwana respectively has frequently been explained in terms of dispersal from their place of origin by means of land bridges that are indeterminate in location and character. One example of such a dispersal event is provided by the Early Cretaceous dinosaurs of Europe and Africa. Certain European taxa have been interpreted as having their origin in Gondwana. If we regard these presences common to both areas as being the result of a point of communication between Laurasia and western Gondwana or at least of sporadic flows in both directions during the Early Cretaceous, we may opt for dispersal as an explanation.

It has been assumed that there was an intercontinental bridge between Africa and Europe passing through the archipelago of which Iberia formed a part. This interpretation emerged from the idea that such a bridge existed in the Late Jurassic, explaining the presence of similar ornithopod dinosaurs in Africa and Europe. However, from the end of the Early Jurassic a period of “rift” began on the southern Iberian margin, entailing the formation of a sedimentary furrow with pelagic sedimentation in what is known as the Subbetic zone. Moreover, the differences in the observed dinosaur fauna between western Gondwana and the Iberian Peninsula in the Neocomian can be explained as the result of endemism and regional extinctions. The archipelago that formed the Iberian plate was Laurasia’s closest continental mass to Gondwana during the Neocomian, yet there was still a separation of several hundred kilometres of open ocean without islands. Such a barrier would seem difficult for dinosaurs to overcome. As such, we lack proof of communication between the two supercontinents via Iberia during the Neocomian.

The situation appears to change in the Barremian-Aptian transition. Some of the taxa present in the Hauterivian-Barremian of Europe are recorded in Gondwana from the Aptian onwards. This can possibly be explained in terms of the more complete record that exists, but it cannot be ruled out that a communication was established between Gondwana and Laurasia at the end of the Barremian. For the time being, we lack geological support for this bridge in Iberia, yet it might be located in Apulia, where there is a great development of shallow-shelf carbonates with dinosaur remains from the period in question.

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