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Vertebrate fossils from Morocco: our state of knowledge
SVPCA Conference
Platform presentation (20 minutes)
*Nour-Eddine Jalil
Since the first finds of vertebrate fossils in Morocco at the beginning of the last century, palaeontological discoveries have succeeded one another and a succession of vertebrate-bearing horizons dated from Devonian to present has been reported.
Vertebrate fossils from Morocco are of considerable importance in terms of palaeobiogeography and large-scale evolutionary studies. They can illustrate most of vertebrate history, from the Devonian 'fishes' (Emsian-Famennian of Tafilalet and Erfoud regions: placoderms, actnistiens, actinopterygian, and eusteolepiform and onychodontiform sarcopterygians) to the prolific Mio-Plio-Pleistocene sequences of the Atlantic coast, which cover the last 6 millions years of vertebrate's history. They document badly known periods of vertebrate evolution and constitute real windows on the faunal succession on the North African margin of Gondwana : the oldest known North African terrestrial vertebrates (Khenifra and Argana basins, Permian); the recent discoveries on Early Jurassic (Ouarzazate province) that shed new lights on the evolution and early diversification of dinosaurs; the oldest known gondwanian mesozoic mammals (Anoual region, Berriasian); the abundant vertebrates from Kem Kem beds (Cenomanian) which constitute an important potential to understand vertebrate palaeoecology and paleobiogeography in the Late Cretaceous; the oldest known modern mammals and birds from Africa (Paleocene of Oulad Abdoun and Ouarzazate basins); and the phosphatic deposits (Oulad abdoun basin) especially famous for their well preserved and diversified vertebrate fauna which provide a good reference for understanding vertebrates evolution from Maastrichtian to the Ypresian (K/T and P/E biotic crisis, the initial radiation of Paleocene mammals and the palaeobiogeography of the southern Tethysian margin and the arabo-african platform).
An overview of these palaeofaunas is given with a particular references to the Permian and Triassic vertebrates from the Argana basin, with their palaeobiographic implications.
Considering this wealth of palaeontological data, one could expect that Morocco possesses important Museums and the most complete collections on vertebrate fossils. In fact, a large number of scientific publications held on specimens obtained from open market rather than on specimens collected throughout scientific fieldwork. Vertebrate fossils are commercially attractive and raise much private demand. Commercial dealers argue that they help peasants who make a living from selling fossils. In fact, they take advantage of them and sell fossils to the highest bidder contributing to the impoverishment of whole regions of geologic heritage. Scientists who often share the responsibility for public ignorance of fossils should provide more information to the public. They should also develop long-term scientific projects and thereby, help in preserving this priceless heritage.
London 2020