Middle Eocene vertebrate fauna from the Aridal Formation, Sabkha of Gueran, southwestern Morocco

Samir ZOUHRI, Philip D. GINGERICH, Bouziane KHALLOUFI, Estelle BOURDON, Sylvain ADNET, Stéphane JOUVE, Najia ELBOUDALI, Ayoub AMANE, Jean-Claude RAGE, Rodolphe TABUCE & France de LAPPARENT de BROIN

en Geodiversitas 43 (5) - Pages 121-150

Published on 11 March 2021

This article is a part of the thematic issue Memorial Jean-Claude Rage: A life of paleo-herpetologist

In the Sahara Desert of southwestern Morocco, the Aridal Formation of Gueran is known for the world’s richest Bartonian archaic whale assemblage, which includes both protocetids and basilosaurids. Gueran has also yielded another rich and diverse vertebrate fauna described in detail herein —The chondrichthyan assemblage of twelve species is quite similar to that of the Midawara Formation (Egypt). Actinopterygians include Siluriformes, Percomorpha and rostra of Cylindracanthus Leidy, 1856. Turtles are attributed to at least three indetermined species: two marine cryptodires – a cheloniid and a dermochelyid, and a possible littoral pleurodire, as found in Ad-Dakhla (Morocco) and Fayum (Egypt). The crocodylians comprise at least two longirostrine taxa, including a gavialoid that resembles the late Eocene-early Oligocene Eogavialis africanum Andrews, 1901 from Egypt. The second form is too fragmentary to be identified more precisely than Crocodyliformes indet. Two snake vertebrae belong to Pterosphenus cf. schweinfurthi Andrews, 1901. Two other incomplete snake vertebrae probably belong to Paleophiidae as well. Seabird remains belong to a gigantic soaring pseudo-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae) and constitute the earliest occurrence of the genus Pelagornis sp. Lartet, 1857. This material extends the fossil record of Pelagornis back in time by at least 10 million years. Based on their size and enamel microstructure, mammal dental fragments are attributed to the proboscidean ?Barytherium sp. The Bartonian age of the fauna, initially based on an archaeocete cetacean assemblage, is also supported by chondrichthyans. Affinities of the Gueran faunal assemblage are analyzed in comparison with those from other middle and upper Eocene deposits of North Africa and elsewhere.

Keywords :

Aridal Formation, Sabkha of Gueran, Moroccan Sahara, Vertebrates, middle Eocene

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