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TSoSC #2: Keichousaur-killer of Xingyi

By Gogosardina
Triassic Seas of South China #2: Keichousaur-killer of Xingyi

Acrylics, digital and photography, 2013

2nd 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]

ca. 235,000,000 bp, uppermost Middle Triassic (late Ladinian), Xingyi County, Guizhou, China (Zhuganpo Formation).

A coastal reef at the very end of the Middle Triassic. We're close to the shores of a large island, over 100 km off the South Chinese mainland. Sleek and deadly, a nothosaur snacks on it's abundant smaller relatives, the keichousaurs, ducking beneath the incredible neck of Tanystropheus to do so. Other reef denizens flee in terror while ammonoids and wing-finned Potanichthys hover unconcerned in the surface waters.

Nothosaurus youngi - (big yellowish foreground predator) 2.1m long. Nothosaurs were the most badass predators of the Triassic seas. N. youngi was one of the smaller members of it's genus but still formidably armed with wicked-looking teeth.

Keichousaurus hui - (numerous small reptiles in foreground) Under 30cm. by far the most abundant tetrapod in the Xingyi biota, known from hundreds, if not thousands, of specimens ranging from embryoes to adults.

Yunguisaurus liae - (pair of long-necked swimmers in background) Up to 4.5m long. the Middle Triassic sauropterygians most completely adapted for aquatic life were pistosaurs like Yunguisaurus. Their long-necked, paddle-limbed body configuration was a winning formula that was taken to extremes by their plesiosaur descendants later in the Mesozoic.

Tanystropheus cf.longobardicus - (huge long-necked reptile stretching into foreground) 6m long, over half of which is neck. Remains of this preposterously long-necked protorosaur from Xingyi include an almost complete skeleton that is effectively indistinguishable from T. longobardicus from Italy and Switzerland - unfortunately the head is missing on the Chinese specimen so we can't be totally sure. A predator of cephalopods and small fish (based on gut contents of European specimens), the body of Tany shows no obvious adaptations for marine life. However it's pan-Tethyan distribution and presence at Xingyi, 100s of kms from the nearest continental landmass, suggest considerable maritime capabilities.

Anshunsaurus wushaensis - (serpentine reptile in background) 2.5m long thalattosaur with a small ichthyosaur-like head. At this time thalattosaurs were rare in the region and not very diverse, however the group was about to come into their own within a few million years.

The apparent absence of ichthyosaurs at Xingyi is puzzling...

Peltopleurus orientalis ­- 5cm, numerous small brown fishes.
Guizhoubrachysoma minor - 4cm, short, blue fishes.
Guizhouamia bellula - 15cm, slender fishes with orange stripes. Originally described as the world's oldest bowfin (amiid). It isn't.
Asialepidotus shigyiensis - 20cm, brown fishes with vertical bands. Guizhouella/Guizhoueugnathus analilepida is a synonym.
Potanichthys xingyiensis - 15cm, big-winged fishes near the surface. The most famous of the Xingyi fishes, Potanichthys was one of the first attempts at flight by the Actinopterygii with many convergent similarities in fin shape and body form to modern flying fishes.

Schimperella acanthocercus - 4cm minus antennae. numerous small shrimps. Yes, I think Japanese crystal red shrimps are cool. Probably the most common fossils at Xingyi.
Protrachyceras sp. - ammonoids.
Traumatocrinus hsui - floating colony of crinoids in the far distance. Rare at Xingyi, as with the thalattosaurs, these huge echinoderms would become far more common within a few million years.
Image details
Image size
2714x3150px 1.71 MB
Canon PowerShot S50
Shutter Speed
1/125 second
Focal Length
10 mm
Date Taken
Jan 3, 2008, 12:01:38 PM
Sensor Size
© 2013 - 2021 Gogosardina
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MichaelJohnMorris's avatar
vasix's avatar
And to which fauna does Atopodentatus belong?
Gogosardina's avatar
Luoping fauna (Anisian)
vasix's avatar
Hmm...earlier than I realized
Zippo4k's avatar
I wonder if Tanystrophius's long neck may have helped serve it like a snorkel, to allow it's body to remain submerged on the shallow sea floor where it was foraging. When it needs a breadth, it could just lift it's head on that long neck to the surface for a puff of air, and drop back down to resume. I'm sure there are other reasons such a long neck came about, but it just sort of dawned on me.
Isn't Thalattoarchon the apex predator?
Gogosardina's avatar
No ichthyosaurs have been discovered so far in the Xingyi fauna.
I know but you were saying in the description that nothosaurs, adapted towards small prey, were the most badass predator of the Triassic.
NickBrown27's avatar
Thalattoarchon was discovered in North America, which would have been the Panthalassic Ocean back in the Anisian period, this biota is in the eastern Tethys Ocean. They were on the opposite sides of Pangea. Sure, it lived in the sea, and generally speaking sea creatures have huge ranges but there is still a large chance that it didn't extend as far as that.
VigorousNebulaDragon's avatar
ChasMandala's avatar
This is amazing - such incredible detail; and the accompanying review adds to the intriguing nature of the work. Very nicely done! :clap:
ScaledOne's avatar
I ordered this as a canva and received it yesterday. This piece is just incredible ! And the details are great as well as the serious paleontological work put into it, so happy with it =)
Gogosardina's avatar
Thanks! Glad you like.
Sparklet-Rayne's avatar
Scuba dive here at your own risk.
MasPix's avatar
A Really excellently crafted image !
sn1985a's avatar
it is great!!!
batworker's avatar
Absolutaly amazing!
Gogosardina's avatar
Pristichampsus's avatar
Will you upload the final scene in this series? I saw on the DML that the article is available, but I'm leery about buying the article, because of its expense. Unless, of course, buying the article has any positive effect on your pocket, in which case, I would oblige.
Gogosardina's avatar
Perhaps tomorrow... How big is the paywall around this?
Pristichampsus's avatar
Well, they're charging just shy of 40 dollars to purchase the one article :/

I have payed around half that price for kindle books of similar scientific value. I would gladly pay if it went to the pocket of the artist in particular, or I could just buy prints of all 3 on deviant-art, when you manage to upload them.
Elperdido1965's avatar
fantastic artwork of a fantastic Ecosystem
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