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Jobbins, Melina; Haug, Carolin and Klug, Christian (2020): First African thylacocephalans from the Famennian of Morocco and their role in Late Devonian food webs. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 10, No. 1, 5129 [PDF, 2MB]


Thylacocephalans are enigmatic arthropods with an erratic Palaeozoic and Mesozoic fossil record. In many of the few localities where they occur, they are quite abundant. This also holds true for the Famennian Thylacocephalan Layer in the Maider (eastern Anti-Atlas of Morocco), a small epicontinental basin hosting some strata with taphonomic properties of a conservation deposit yielding exceptionally preserved gnathostomes and non-vertebrates. In a thin argillaceous interval in the earliest middle Famennian, thylacocephalans occur in such great numbers that they became eponyms of this unit. Therein, we discovered a new taxon of thylacocephalans, Concavicaris submarinus sp. nov., which represent the oldest records of thylacocephalans from Africa. In the CT-imagery, the holotype of Concavicaris submarinus sp. nov. revealed anatomical details including its eyes, appendages and other soft parts. Sedimentary facies and faunal composition of the Thylacocephalan Layer suggest that these animals populated the water column above the low-oxygen sea floor. Thus, thylacocephalans likely represented an important component of the diet of chondrichthyans and placoderms, which are quite common as well. The abundance of thylacocephalans in other conservation deposits like the Cleveland Shale (USA) and the Gogo Formation (Australia) underline their pivotal role in Late Devonian pelagic food webs.

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