Taxonomic Composition and Trophic Structure of the Continental Bony Fish Assemblage from the Early Late Cretaceous of Southeastern Morocco

Taxonomic Composition and Trophic Structure of the Continental Bony Fish Assemblage from the Early Late Cretaceous of Southeastern Morocco


English :
The mid-Cretaceous vertebrate assemblage from south-eastern Morocco is one of the most diversified continental vertebrate assemblages of this time worldwide. The bony fish component (coelacanths, lungfishes and ray-finned fishes) is represented by relatively complete specimens and, mostly, by fragmentary elements scattered along 250 kilometres of outcrops. Here we revisit the bony fish assemblage by studying both isolated remains collected during several fieldtrips and more complete material kept in public collections. The assemblage comprises several lungfish taxa, with the first mention of the occurrence of Arganodus tiguidiensis, and possibly two mawsoniid coelacanths. A large bichir, cf. Bawitius, is recorded and corresponds to cranial elements initially referred to 'Stromerichthys' from coeval deposits in Egypt. The ginglymodians were diversified with a large 'Lepidotes' plus two obaichthyids and a gar. We confirm here that this gar belongs to a genus distinctive from Recent gars, contrary to what was suggested recently. Teleosteans comprise a poorly known ichthyodectiform, a notopterid, a probable osteoglossomorph and a large tselfatiiform, whose cranial anatomy is detailed. The body size and trophic level for each taxon are estimated on the basis of comparison with extant closely related taxa. We plotted the average body size versus average trophic level for the Kem Kem assemblage, together with extant marine and freshwater assemblages. The Kem Kem assemblage is characterized by taxa of proportionally large body size, and by a higher average trophic level than the trophic level of the extant compared freshwater ecosystems, but lower than for the extant marine ecosystems. These results should be regarded with caution because they rest on a reconstructed assemblage known mostly by fragmentary remains. They reinforce, however, the ecological oddities already noticed for this mid-Cretaceous vertebrate ecosystem in North Africa.