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Zookeys. 2015 Jan 8;(469):1-161. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.469.8439. eCollection 2015.

Island life in the Cretaceous - faunal composition, biogeography, evolution, and extinction of land-living vertebrates on the Late Cretaceous European archipelago.

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Department of Geology, Faculty of Geology and Geophysics, University of Bucharest, 1 N. Bălcescu Blvd, 010041 Bucharest, Romania.
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UMR 8538, Laboratoire de Géologie de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.
MTA-ELTE Lendület Dinosaur Research Group, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, Budapest, 1117, Hungary.
Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Apartado 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain.
School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Grant Institute, King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JW, UK.


The Late Cretaceous was a time of tremendous global change, as the final stages of the Age of Dinosaurs were shaped by climate and sea level fluctuations and witness to marked paleogeographic and faunal changes, before the end-Cretaceous bolide impact. The terrestrial fossil record of Late Cretaceous Europe is becoming increasingly better understood, based largely on intensive fieldwork over the past two decades, promising new insights into latest Cretaceous faunal evolution. We review the terrestrial Late Cretaceous record from Europe and discuss its importance for understanding the paleogeography, ecology, evolution, and extinction of land-dwelling vertebrates. We review the major Late Cretaceous faunas from Austria, Hungary, France, Spain, Portugal, and Romania, as well as more fragmentary records from elsewhere in Europe. We discuss the paleogeographic background and history of assembly of these faunas, and argue that they are comprised of an endemic 'core' supplemented with various immigration waves. These faunas lived on an island archipelago, and we describe how this insular setting led to ecological peculiarities such as low diversity, a preponderance of primitive taxa, and marked changes in morphology (particularly body size dwarfing). We conclude by discussing the importance of the European record in understanding the end-Cretaceous extinction and show that there is no clear evidence that dinosaurs or other groups were undergoing long-term declines in Europe prior to the bolide impact.


Europe; Late Cretaceous; extinction; faunal evolution; island; paleobiogeography

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