Mesozoic Sea Dragons
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Told in rich detail and with gorgeous color recreations, this is the story of marine life in the age before the dinosaurs. During the Middle Triassic Period (247–237 million years ago), the mountain of Monte San Giorgio in Switzerland was a tropical lagoon. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it boasts an astonishing fossil record of marine life from that time. Attracted to an incredibly diverse and well-preserved set of fossils, Swiss and Italian paleontologists have been excavating the mountain since 1850.

Synthesizing and interpreting over a century of discoveries through a critical twenty-first century lens, paleontologist Olivier Rieppel tells for the first time the complete story of the fish and marine reptiles who made that long-ago lagoon their home. Through careful analysis and vividly rendered recreations, he offers memorable glimpses of not only what Thalattosaurs, Protorosaurs, Ichthyosaurs, Pachypleurosaurs, and other marine life looked like but how they moved and lived in the lagoon.

An invaluable resource for specialists and accessible to all, this book is essential to all who are fascinated with ancient marine life.



Publié par
Date de parution 24 avril 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253040145
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 73 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0087€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Mesozoic Sea Dragons
Triassic Marine Life from the
Ancient Tropical Lagoon of
Monte San Giorgio
Indiana University Press
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2019 by Olivier Rieppel
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-04011-4 (hdbk.)
ISBN 978-0-253-04013-8 (web PDF)
1 2 3 4 5 24 23 22 21 20 19

1 The Dragon Mountain
2 Fishes
3 A Sketch of Reptile Evolution
4 Ichthyosaurs
5 Helveticosaurus, Eusaurosphargis , and the Placodonts
6 Pachypleurosaurs
7 Lariosaurs and Nothosaurs
8 Thalattosaurs
9 Protorosaurs
10 A Dinosaur Lookalike from Monte San Giorgio
11 The Tethys Sea: Connections from East to West
Epilogue-In the Shadow of the Chinese Dragon
Literature Cited

I am very grateful to the Series Editor, James O. Farlow, as well as Gary Dunham, Peggy Solic, and Mary Jo Rhodes from Indiana University Press, who helped to see this book through publication. Christian Klug, and Torsten Scheyer from the Paleontological Institute and Museum of the University of Z rich, as well as Tony B rgin (St. Gallen), Markus Felber (Morbio Inferiore, Ticino), Nicholas C. Fraser (Edinburgh), Heinz Furrer (Z rich), Hartmut Haubold (Halle/Saale), Heinz Lanz (Winterthur), Hans Rieber (Z rich), Christopher R. Scotese (Evanston, IL), Giorgio Teruzzi (Milan), Karl Tschanz (Z rich), the Archivio Sommaruga, the Commissione Scientifico Transnationale Monte San Giorgio, and the Fotostiftung Schweiz all helped and supported the book project in various ways, especially by providing illustrations. John Weinstein (photographer) and Marlene Donnelly (scientific illustrator), both at the Field Museum, improved the quality of the illustrations. Sincere thanks to all of these friends and colleagues.
Mesozoic Sea Dragons
1.1. The field crew at the Acqua del Ghiffo site in 1928. From left to right : Emil Kuhn, Giuseppe Buzzi, Sergente Buzzi, Vittorio Marogna, Bergum (a citizen of Meride), T. Bresciani, B. Bianchi (digital rendition Heinz Lanz; Photo Max P. Linck / Fotostiftung Schweiz).
The Dragon Mountain

Bernhard Peyer
It had been a hot day, in spite of the surrounding trees, which offered speckled shade. But the team of paleontologists had managed to clear another slab of Triassic fossiliferous sedimentary rock from the overburden. In the oblique light of the late afternoon, the contours of several promising fossils could be made out-some fish, several other small, lizard-like pachypleurosaurs. No larger fossils were found that day. They had circled the fossils with white chalk lines and planned to cut them out the next day. Then they would further expand their dig in the following days and weeks, when they would hit it big! The find would be a complete skeleton of a new lariosaur genus and species, 104 cm in total length (small by comparison to other, later finds of the same species), which Peyer christened Ceresiosaurus calcagnii , in honor of Commendatore Emilio Calcagni (Peyer, 1931a). Calcagni was the landowner who had graciously allowed excavations to proceed since the spring of 1927, when Peyer first found fossils at this locality. Peyer derived the genus name, Ceresiosaurus , from the local name for Lake Lugano, which embraces the eastern, northern, and western flanks of the northward-jutting pyramidal mountain; the team was working on the western slope of this mountain, some way above the Italian lakefront town of Porto Ceresio. Satisfied with the dig s progress, Peyer poured himself a strong coffee, espresso really, from his Thermos flask. To complete what he called the trimming of a fossil find, the coffee was to be accompanied by a shot of Grappa del Ticino, a spirit distilled from pomace of Merlot, the signature grape of the Canton Ticino, Switzerland.
Peyer sat down and proceeded to stuff his pipe, looking at his crew of workers through his rimless spectacles. Absent-mindedly, he picked up a chestnut, one of the first to have ripened this season. The Ticinesi, the local inhabitants of the Canton Ticino, collect them in the fall to roast over fire or glowing charcoal. Some would travel to northern cities in Switzerland-Lucerne or Basel-to sell their freshly roasted Marroni on the streets. With all the excitement of fossil hunting, Peyer had not realized how hungry he was. He looked forward to ordering braised rabbit with polenta for dinner at the local Grotto , the Ristorante Alpino in Serpiano, paired with a bottle of the local Merlot, and followed of course by another trimming-an espresso con grappa (Kuhn-Schnyder, 1968)! It was late summer of 1928, and his team was fossil hunting at the Acqua del Ghiffo locality near Crocifisso ( fig. 1.1 ), on Monte San Giorgio, the latter located in southern Switzerland just across the border from Italy.
Peyer had a lean, wiry physique and was wearing baggy trousers stuck in rubber boots. During the heat of the day he had taken his jacket off and put it aside, but being the only academic on the site, he had thought it proper to keep his vest on. His hair, currently disheveled, was cut short and combed to one side. As Peyer stroked his moustache, which partly obscured his thin lips, he thought it needed trimming. Bernhard was born in the Swiss town Schaffhausen on July 25, 1885, son of the textile manufacturer Johann Bernhard Peyer and his wife, n e Sophie Frey (H. Fischer, 1963; H. C. Peyer, 1963). The parents guided their son Bernhard through the Schaffhausen school system toward graduation in a classical humanistic education. Bernhard displayed a mastery of foreign languages-and these included not just French, English, and Italian but also Latin and classic Greek. One of his preferred leisure-time activities became reading and reciting Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey , in the original. But Bernhard felt equally at ease in the outdoors and developed an early interest in natural history, paleontology, and geology. He obtained his first formal training in zoology and comparative anatomy as a student of Arnold Lang (1855-1914), a former student, then assistant, and eventually colleague of the famous Jena zoologist and evolutionist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), also known as the German Darwin. Of Swiss extraction, Lang joined the University of Zurich in 1889, where he pursued a stellar career until his death in November 1914 (Haeckel, Hescheler, and Eisig, 1916). Peyer ( fig. 1.2 ) studied further at the University of Munich, where he heard the famous zoologist Richard Hertwig (1850-1937), another Haeckel student, and forged relations that would evolve into longtime friendships with the paleontologists Ferdinand Broili (1874-1946) and Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach (1871-1952).
Back at the University of Zurich, Peyer obtained his PhD under Arnold Lang with a dissertation on the embryonic development of the skull of the asp viper, Vipera aspis , a venomous snake native to central and southern Europe, a species first described by Linnaeus in 1758. Karl Hescheler (1868-1940), former student and eventual successor of Arnold Lang as professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at the University of Zurich, encouraged Peyer to apply for the venia legendi- the honor and duty to teach at the university level-with the submission of his work on the fin-spines of catfish as a Habilitation thesis. Hescheler is considered the initiator of Swiss paleontology, not only through his research on fossil mammals but also as a founding member of the Swiss Archeological and Paleontological Societies. A bachelor throughout his life, Hescheler bequeathed his estate to the University of Zurich, thus establishing the Karl Hescheler endowment. The latter would support Peyer s paleontological excavations in important ways in the years to come and continues to support the Zoological and Paleontological Museums of the University of Zurich to the present day.
On the excavation in 1928, Peyer was still a lecturer at the University of Zurich, but in 1930 he was promoted to associate professor. In 1943 he was voted full professor of paleontology and comparative anatomy, and director of the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich. During his long and extraordinary career, Peyer published extensively, producing numerous voluminous monographs on the Triassic reptiles from Monte San Giorgio and also on fossil remains of sharks, bony fishes, reptiles from other localities and time horizons, and important papers on fossil mammals, most notably the Late Triassic haramiyids from Hallau near his home town Schaffhausen (Peyer, 1956). He also published on the development and histology of vertebrate hard tissues, especially teeth. But additionally he contributed publications in the history of science, such as comments on the biological writings of Aristotle; a biography of his famous forefather, the medic Johann Conrad Peyer (1653-1712); an account of the biological writings of the medic Johannes

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