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Curr Biol. 2017 Jun 5;27(11):1641-1644.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.043. Epub 2017 May 25.

Calcium Isotopic Evidence for Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem Structure Prior to the K/Pg Extinction.

Author information

1
Université de Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5276 Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon: Terre, Planète, Environnement, 69342 Lyon, France. Electronic address: jeremy.martin@ens-lyon.fr.
2
Sorbonne Universités - CR2P - MNHN, CNRS, UPMC-Paris 6, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 57 rue Cuvier, CP 38, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.
3
Université de Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5276 Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon: Terre, Planète, Environnement, 69342 Lyon, France.
4
Direction de la géologie, Office Chérifien des Phosphates SA, Morocco.

Abstract

The collapse of marine ecosystems during the end-Cretaceous mass extinction involved the base of the food chain [1] up to ubiquitous vertebrate apex predators [2-5]. Large marine reptiles became suddenly extinct at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary, whereas other contemporaneous groups such as bothremydid turtles or dyrosaurid crocodylomorphs, although affected at the familial, genus, or species level, survived into post-crisis environments of the Paleocene [5-9] and could have found refuge in freshwater habitats [10-12]. A recent hypothesis proposes that the extinction of plesiosaurians and mosasaurids could have been caused by an important drop in sea level [13]. Mosasaurids are unusually diverse and locally abundant in the Maastrichtian phosphatic deposits of Morocco, and with large sharks and one species of elasmosaurid plesiosaurian recognized so far, contribute to an overabundance of apex predators [3, 7, 14, 15]. For this reason, high local diversity of marine reptiles exhibiting different body masses and a wealth of tooth morphologies hints at complex trophic interactions within this latest Cretaceous marine ecosystem. Using calcium isotopes, we investigated the trophic structure of this extinct assemblage. Our results are consistent with a calcium isotope pattern observed in modern marine ecosystems and show that plesiosaurians and mosasaurids indiscriminately fall in the tertiary piscivore group. This suggests that marine reptile apex predators relied onto a single dietary calcium source, compatible with the vulnerable wasp-waist food webs of the modern world [16]. This inferred peculiar ecosystem structure may help explain plesiosaurian and mosasaurid extinction following the end-Cretaceous biological crisis.

KEYWORDS:

Cretaceous; calcium isotopes; marine ecosystem; marine reptiles; mass extinction; non-traditional isotopes; paleoecology; wasp-waist food web

PMID:
28552352
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.043
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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