STL Science Center

STL Science Center

02 April 2013

Clidastes In Europe?

Plate from Lindgren and Siverson (caption on pg 4 (222))
We think of marine species, for the most part, as being pretty much globally distributed. This is because most of us are not marine biologists and we see on television that dolphins, clownfish, seals, sharks, etc (the most photogenic and recognizable animals) seem to live in every ocean that has had a camera crew in it. That assumption, often, is extended back in time as well. That is, though, not the truth. Not until 2004 was a paper published on the first recorded Clidastes find in Europe; in Sweden to be precise. Over 15 years, from 1989 to 2004, bits and pieces of Clidastes skeletons and teeth were collected in Sweden and this paper, by Johan Lindgren and Mikael Siverson set out to describe the collected material and then went on to analyze the geographical implications of a Clidastes specimen being discovered so far away from the typical grounds of Clidastes populations, i.e. North America. The description itself is highly detailed and includes many comparisons to the type species (Clidastes propython), but off greatest interest to me were the sections on paleobiogeography and paleoecology. These are shorter sections but still contain good descriptions and reasoning to support their claims. In the pursuit of not delivering the entire message (and thus forcing readers to read the paper) I do not wish to go into more depth on these two sections here, but I encourage you to read at least those two sections near the end of the paper. Just to support the "sudden find" of a Clidastes in Europe, another paper by Caldwell and Diedrich (2005), announced the "unexpected mosasaur" Clidastes was discovered in northwestern Germany as well and thus backed up assertions put forward in Lindgren and Siverson pertaining to the global, "transoceanic" is the term they use, distribution of Clidastes while stating that they, Caldwell and Diedrich, could more confidently assign a time period to the remains of Clidastes in Europe. A very good day of reading in these two papers alone awaits!

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