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TSoSC #1: Lobster lunch of Luoping

By Gogosardina
Triassic Seas of South China #1: Lobster Lunch of Luoping

2013, acrylics on card/photography/2D digital

1st in a series for the following review paper =
Michael J. Benton, Qiyue Zhang, Shixue Hu, Zhong-Qiang Chen, Wen Wen, Jun Liu, Jinyuang Huang, Changyong Zhou, Tao Xie, Jinnan Tong & Brian Choo (accepted manuscript), Exceptional vertebrate biotas from the Triassic of China, and the expansion of marine ecosystems after the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, Earth Science Review. [link]

Recent discoveries of outstanding fossil biotas in Yunnan and Guizhou have provided an unparalleled glimpse of early Mesozoic marine life, from the shell-shocked aftermath of the Permian extinction to recovery and diversification in the Middle-Late Triassic.

ca. 245,000,000 bp, Middle Triassic (Anisian), Luoping County, Yunnan, China (Member II of the Guanling Formation)

A mere 8 million years after the worst mass extinction in Earth's history, life has well and truly recovered on a shallow muddy seafloor at the eastern edge of the Tethys Sea, off the west coast of the South China continent.

Just as tasty in the Triassic as they are today, an early rock lobster (Yunnanopalinura) attracts the unwanted attention of a coelacanth (Luopingcoelacanthus) and the armoured reptile Sinosaurosphargis, allowing a pair of horseshoe crabs to scuttle away unnoticed. Numerous other fish and marine reptiles swarm around in the warm sunlit waters.

Invertebrates =
Yunnanopalinura schrami (9cm minus antennae). The world's oldest rock lobster (Palinuridae).
Yunnanolimulus luopingensis (4cm minus telson spike). Horseshoe crab.
Some generic ammonoids.

Fishes =
Luopingcoelacanthus eurylacrimalis (complete specimens at 20cm SL - isolated scales suggest individuals over thrice that length). Big blue coelacanth in the foreground.
Sangiorgioichthys sui (8cm SL) - numerous small fishes with black-tipped fins. The most common vertebrate in the assemblage.
Marcopoloichthys ani (3.5cm SL) - tiny fishes with red-spotted fins. Named after the famous explorer because fossils of this genus were almost simultaneously discovered in Italy and China.
Gymnoichthys inopinatus (13cm SL) - bright blue fish with yellow back.
Sinosaurichthys longimedialis (45cm SL) - needle-like fishes with flowing fins. Females are more robust and have shorter snouts. Sleek surface-to-midwater predators.
Kyphosichthys grandei (12cm SL) - pair of deep-bodied brown-yellow fishes at left.
Luoxiongichthys hyperdorsalis (15cm SL) - black & white banded deep-bodied fishes with high triangular dorsal crest.

Reptiles =
Sinosaurosphargis yunguiensis (60cm snout & carapace length, tail not preserved). The turtle-like thing in the foreground. Not a turtle, not a placodont but something else entirely. The saurosphargids were armoured aquatic diapsids of uncertain affinity. Thus we have three groups of Tethyan Triassic sauropsids that all independently acquired a turtle-like carapace (saurosphargids, placodonts and genuine turtles). Weird.

Dianopachysaurus dingi (25cm total length) small green reptile. A small pachypleurosauroid sauropterygian.

Mixosaurus cf.panxianensis (80cm total length) Small early ichthyosaurs (although the biggest animals in this scene). Based on a specimen erroneously described as the Swiss M.kuhnschnyderi, but closer to M. panxianensis from Yunnan. Although mixosaurs are often restored with dorsal fins, there is no firm evidence for this structure so early in the ichthyosaur lineage. Luoping and Panxian mixosaurs are often surrounded by a carbonaceous film that show no trace of a DF.
Image details
Image size
2692x3150px 1.85 MB
Canon PowerShot S50
Shutter Speed
1/1002 second
Focal Length
7 mm
Date Taken
Jan 2, 2012, 2:33:26 PM
Sensor Size
© 2013 - 2021 Gogosardina
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UmbraAtramentum's avatar
This is on my vertebrate palaeontology text book o_o, you are an amazing artist, this looks incredible
Gogosardina's avatar
Mike Benton's Vertebrate Palaeontology? Yeah, the 1st edition was my paleo-textbook. Was glad to be able to contribute to the 4th ed.
ScaledOne's avatar
Out of words to describe this work, simply fantastic. All the taxonomic and paleoecologic informations are fascinating well done.  I didn't even knew the existence of the saurosphargids !
Gogosardina's avatar
Thanks - I had no idea what saurosphargids were until I saw the Sinosaurosphargis holotype in 2012.
vasix's avatar
Where do we start to find Shastasaurus liangae and Barracudasaroides in Chinese rocks? who do you think would be the apex predator of tis environment?
Gogosardina's avatar
If you agree with Maisch's scheme, the animals in this picture are Barracudinasauroides - many workers, including myself, are happy to continue lumping it with Mixosaurus

The shastasaurids come much later.
JWArtwork's avatar
Great realism here, definately one of your better works! :nod: I really like it, great job you've done here! :)
Gogosardina's avatar
Thanks! Hope you like the rest of the series when I get around to posting it.
JWArtwork's avatar
Well, I'm eager to see them, but I'm sure I will. ;)
Orionide5's avatar
I'm amazed how you gave such a realistic look to strange extinct creatures such as the turtle mimic, the proto-nothosaur and the sword-gars (I looked them up and phylogenically they're more like sturgeons, but whatever).
Gogosardina's avatar
Yeah - it's striking how convergently close the saurichthyid body-plan was to modern needle gars/long toms (Belonidae) despite the two groups being unrelated.
Orionide5's avatar
Like they say, prehistory repeats itself.
avancna's avatar
Sinosaurichthys was marine?
Gogosardina's avatar
Yes, all three species are from marine sediment (Luoping and Panxian).
avancna's avatar
Then, is Saurichthys also marine?
Gogosardina's avatar
Given that Saurichthys is also found at Luoping, yes.
avancna's avatar
Very peculiar.
avancna's avatar
Well, in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, by Nicholas Fraser, one of the pictures portrays a species of Saurichthys as being a freshwater fish.
Gogosardina's avatar
Yes, Saurichthys spp. are found in deposits ranging from lacustrine to offshore environments - the genus obviously had good osmoregulatory capabilities. Not too odd given their distant living cousins, the sturgeons are found in a similar range of habitats.

Luoping represents a moderately deep coastal (intraplatform) basin wedged between the mainland to the west and a large offshore island to the east - given the sheer number of perfect Sinosaurichthys (and lesser number of Saurichthys) its obvious that they lived out at sea for at least part of their adult life (and were subject to mass-kill events)
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omnicogni's avatar
you swear this is traditional over photo? Amazing!!
omnicogni's avatar
The montage itself is digital even if the animals are acrylics, right? Now I got it.
Gogosardina's avatar
Yeah, the foreground algae covered sediment is a cropped underwater photo with digital overlay, the reef in the middle distance is digitally rendered and the distant seafloor is again photographic.

I take large a number of shots of nothing but empty seafloor whenever I go diving for this kinda thing.
omnicogni's avatar
I liked your approach right since I saw it the first time. What struck me was getting that you were not digitally producing your animals over the background and knowing that these were acrylics instead. I allways tend to think that it is an obstacle to have a good scan of traditional art. Nice job!
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