Revision of Saurorhynchus (Actinopterygii: Saurichthyidae) from the Early Jurassic of England and Germany

  • Erin E. Maxwell Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart, Rosenstein 1, 70191 Stuttgart
  • Sebastian Stumpf Institut für Geographie und Geologie, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Straße 17a, 17489 Greifswald
Keywords: early Jurassic, Actinopterygii, Saurichthyidae, Posidonienschiefer Formation, Charmouth Mudstone Formation


Saurichthyidae is a speciose group of fishes, ranging from the Late Permian to the Middle Jurassic. Early Jurassic saurichthyids are usually considered morphologically less disparate and taxonomically less diverse than their Triassic counterparts, consisting of only two valid species. These were historically differentiated almost entirely based on cranial ratios, and both had stratigraphic ranges spanning the Early Jurassic. Here, we revise the Early Jurassic saurichthyid fishes of Europe based on restudy of the type material of Saurorhynchus brevirostris (Woodward, 1895) and S. acutus (Agassiz, 1844). We identify four species based on cranial osteology: S. acutus, S. brevirostris, S. anningae sp. nov., and S. hauffi sp. nov. Saurorhynchus brevirostris and S. anningae sp. nov. are known from the Sinemurian of England only, whereas S. acutus and S. hauffi sp. nov. share a broad European distribution during the Toarcian, from southwestern Germany to England. Saurorhynchus anningae sp. nov. and S. brevirostris, in particular, show disparity in such ecomorphologically important traits as cranial fineness, and tooth and jaw morphology. In contrast, S. acutus and S. hauffi sp. nov. show much lower levels of disparity, differing from each other in nostril morphology, dermal ornamentation, and position of the lateral extrascapular. The new species do not increase diversity estimates for Saurorhynchus in either the Sinemurian or Toarcian interval.


Agassiz L. 1844. Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles. II. Contenant l’Histoire de l’Ordre des Ganoïdes. Vol. 2, Part 2. Petitpierre, Neuchatel.

Argyriou T., Clauss M., Maxwell E.E., Furrer H. & Sánchez-Villagra M.R. 2016. Exceptional preservation reveals gastrointestinal anatomy and evolution in early actinopterygian fishes. Scientific Reports 6: 18758.

Arp. 2012. Numismalismergel-Formation. Record No. 4012034. Available from [accessed 21 Jan. 2016].

Beardmore S.R. & Furrer H. 2016a. Evidence of a preservational gradient in the skeletal taphonomy of Ichthyopterygia (Reptilia) from Europe. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 443: 131–144.

Beardmore S.R. & Furrer H. 2016b. Taphonomic analysis of Saurichthys from two stratigraphic horizons in the Middle Triassic of Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland. Swiss Journal of Geosciences 109 (1): 1–16.

Beardmore S.R., Orr P.J., Manzocchi T. & Furrer H. 2012. Float or sink: modelling the taphonomic pathway of marine crocodiles (Mesoeucrocodylia, Thalattosuchia) during the death-burial interval. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 92: 83–98.

Benson R.B.J., Ketchum H.F. & Noè L. 2011. New information on Hauffiosaurus (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) based on a new species from the Alum Shale Member (Lower Toarcian: Lower Jurassic) of Yorkshire, UK. Palaeontology 54 (3): 547–571.

Benton M.J. & Spencer P.S. 1995. Fossil Reptiles of Great Britain. Chapman and Hall, London.

Böttcher R. 1998. Leben und Tod im Meer des Posidonienschiefers. In: Heizmann E.P.J. (ed.) Erdgeschichte mitteleuropäischer Regionen (2): vom Schwarzwald zum Ries: 83–96. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, Munich.

Boulila S., Galbrun B., Huret E., Hinnov L.A., Rouget I., Gardin S. & Bartolini A. 2014. Astronomical calibration of the Toarcian Stage: implications for sequence stratigraphy and duration of the early Toarcian OAE. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 386: 98–111.

Brenner K. & Seilacher A. 1978. New aspects about the origin of the Toarcian Posidonia Shales. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 157: 11–18.

Caswell B.A. & Coe A.L. 2013. Primary productivity controls on opportunistic bivalves during Early Jurassic deoxygenation. Geology 41 (11): 1163–1166.

Dera G., Neige P., Dommergues J.-L. & Brayard A. 2011. Ammonite paleobiogeography during the Pliensbachian-Toarcian crisis (Early Jurassic) reflecting paleoclimate, eustasy, and extinctions. Global and Planetary Change 78: 92–105.

Forey P.L., Longbottom A. & Mulley J. 2010. Fishes – bony fishes. In: Lord A.R. & Davis P.G. (eds) Palaeontological Association Field Guides to Fossils, Number 13: Fossils from the Lower Lias of the Dorset Coast: 341–371. Palaeontological Association, London.

Gardiner B.G. 1960. A revision of certain actinopterygian and coelacanth fishes, chiefly from the Lower Lias. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History): Geology 4 (7): 241–384.

Godefroit P. 1994. Les reptiles marins du Toarcien (Jurassique Inferieur) Belgo-Luxembourgeois. Mémoires pour Servir à l’Explication des Cartes Géologiques et Minières de la Belgique 39: 1–87.

Griffith J. 1959. On the anatomy of two saurichthyid fishes, Saurichthys striolatus (Bronn) and S. curioni (Bellotti). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 132: 587–606.

Griffith J. 1962. The Triassic fish Saurichthys krambergeri Schlosser. Palaeontology 5 (2): 344–354.

Griffith J. 1977. The Upper Triassic fishes from Polzberg bei Lunz, Austria. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 60: 1–93.

Griffith J. 1978. A fragmentary specimen of Saurichthys sp. from the Upper Beaufort series of South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum 76 (8): 299–307.

Hauff B. 1938. Über Acidorhynchus aus den Posidonienschiefern von Holzmaden. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 20: 214–248.

Hauff B. & Hauff R.B. 1981. Das Holzmadenbuch. Urweltmuseum Hauff, Holzmaden.

Hofmann J. 1958. Einbettung und Zerfall der Ichthyosaurier im Lias von Holzmaden. Meyniana 6: 10–55.

Kauffman E.G. 1978. Benthic environments and paleoecology of the Posidonienschiefer (Toarcian). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 157: 18–36.

Kauffman E.G. 1981. Ecological reappraisal of the German Posidonienschiefer (Toarcian) and the stagnant basin model. In: Gray J., Boucot A.J. & Berry W.B.N. (eds) Communities of the Past: 311–381. Hutchinson Ross, Stroudsburg.

Kogan I. 2016. Acidorhynchus Stensiö, 1925 or Saurorhynchus Reis, 1892: how to call the Jurassic saurichthyid? Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlung 279 (1): 123–126.

Kogan I. & Romano C. 2016. Redescription of Saurichthys madagascariensis Piveteau, 1944–45 (Actinopterygii, Early Triassic), with implications for the early saurichthyid morphotype. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 36(4): e1151886.

Kogan I., Pacholak S., Licht M., Schneider J.W., Brücker C. & Brandt S. 2015. The invisible fish: hydrodynamic constraints for predator-prey interaction in fossil fish Saurichthys compared to recent actinpterygians. Biology Open 2015: 1–12.

Konwert M. & Stumpf S. 2017. Exceptionally preserved Leptolepidae (Actinopterygii, Teleostei) from the late Early Jurassic Fossil-Lagerstätten of Grimmen and Dobbertin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania). Zootaxa 4243 (2): 249–296.

Maisch M.W. & Ansorge J. 2004. The Liassic ichthyosaur Stenopterygius cf. quadriscissus from the lower Toarcian of Dobbertin (northeastern Germany) and some considerations on lower Toarcian marine reptile palaeobiogeography. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 78 (1): 161–171.

Martill D.M. 1993. Soupy substrates: a medium for the exceptional preservation of ichthyosaurs of the Posidonia Shale (Lower Jurassic) of Germany. Kaupia 2: 77–97.

Maxwell E.E. 2016. First Middle Jurassic record of Saurichthyidae (Actinopterygii). Paläontologische Zeitschrift 90 (2): 287–291.

Maxwell E.E., Romano C., Wu F. & Furrer H. 2015. Two new species of Saurichthys (Actinopterygii: Saurichthyidae) from the Middle Triassic of Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland, with implications for character evolution in the genus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 173: 887–912.

Maxwell E.E., Diependaal H., Winkelhorst H., Goris G. & Klein N. 2016. A new species of Saurichthys (Actinopterygii: Saurichthyidae) from the Middle Triassic of Winterswijk, The Netherlands. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlung 280 (2): 119–134.

Neuman A.G. & Wilson M.V.H. 1985. A fossil fish of the family Saurichthyidae from the Lower Jurassic of western Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 22: 1158–1162.

Nielsen E. 1949. Studies on Triassic Fishes II. Palaeozoologica Groenlandica 3: 1–309.

Nitsch E., Arp G. & Mönnig E. 2015. Jurensismergel-Formation. No. 4012084. Available from [accessed 21 Jan. 2016].

Poplin C.M. 2004. The dermosphenotic in early actinopterygians, a nomenclatural problem. In: Arratia G. & Tintori A. (eds) Mesozoic fishes 3, Systematics, Paleoenvironments and Biodiversity: 165–178. Verlag Dr Friedrich Pfeil, Munich.

Quenstedt F.A. 1843. Das Flözgebirge Würtembergs mit besonderer Rücksicht auf den Jura. H. Laupp’schen, Tübingen.

Quenstedt F.A. 1856–1858. Der Jura. H. Laupp, Tübingen.

Reis O.M. 1892. Zur Osteologie und Systematik der Belonorhynchiden und Tetragololepiden. Geognostische Jahreshefte 4: 143–171.

Reisdorf A.G., Bux R., Wyler D., Benecke M., Klug C., Maisch M.W., Fornaro P. & Wetzel A. 2012. Float, explode or sink: postmortem fate of lung-breathing marine vertebrates. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 92: 67–81.

Renesto S. & Stockar R. 2015. Prey content in a Saurichthys reveals the presence of advanced halecomorph fishes in the Middle Triassic of Monte San Giorgio. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlungen 278 (1): 95–107.

Riegraf W.V., Werner G. & Lörcher F. 1984. Der Posidonienschiefer. Biostratigraphie, Fauna und Fazies des südwestdeutschen Untertoarciums (Lias ε). Ferdinand Enke, Stuttgart.

Rieppel O. 1985. Die Triasfauna der Tessiner Kalkalpen XXV. Die Gattung Saurichthys (Pisces, Actinopterygii) aus der mittleren Trias des Monte San Giorgio, Kanton Tessin. Schweizerische Paläontologische Abhandlungen 108: 1–103.

Röhl H.-J. & Schmid-Röhl A. 2005. Lower Toarcian (Upper Liassic) black shales of the Central European Basin: a sequence stratigraphic case study from the SW German Posidonia Shale. SEPM Special Publication 82: 165–189.

Röhl H.-J., Schmid-Röhl A., Oschmann W., Frimmel A. & Schwark L. 2001. Erratum to “The Posidonia Shale (Lower Toarcian) of SW-Germany: an oxygen-depleted ecosystem controlled by sea level and palaeoclimate”. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 169: 273–299.

Romano C. & Brinkmann W. 2009. Reappraisal of the lower actinopterygian Birgeria stensioei Aldinger, 1931 (Osteichthyes; Birgeriidae) from the Middle Triassic of Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland) and Besano (Italy). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlungen 252 (1): 17–31.

Romano C., Kogan I., Jenks J., Jerjen I. & Brinkmann W. 2012. Saurichthys and other fossil fishes from the late Smithian (Early Triassic) of Bear Lake County (Idaho, USA), with a discussion of saurichthyid palaeogeography and evolution. Bulletin of Geosciences 87 (3): 543–570.

Schulbert C. 2013. Der Jurensismergel von Mistelgau. Der Steinkern 15: 50–63.

Schwarz W. 1970. Die Triasfauna der Tessiner Kalkalpen XX. Birgeria stensiöi Aldinger. Schweizerische Paläontologische Abhandlungen 89: 1–93.

Stensiö E. 1925. Triassic fishes from Spitzbergen, Part II. Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar Tredje Serien 2 (1): 1–126.

Thies D. 1985. Funde von Acidorhynchus brevirostris (Woodward 1895) aus dem Posidonienschiefer (Unter-Toarcium) NW-Deutschlands. Palaeontographica Abt. A 187 (4–6): 183–203.

Urlichs M., Wild R. & Ziegler B. 1994. Der Posidonien-Schiefer und seine Fossilien. Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde C 36: 1–95.

Wenz S. 1967. Compléments a l’étude des poissons actinoptérygiens du Jurassique Français. Cahiers de Paléontologie 1967: 1–276.

Wilson L.A.B., Colombo M., Sánchez-Villagra M. & Salzburger W. 2015. Evolution of opercle shape in cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika – adaptive trait interactions in extant and extinct species flocks. Scientific Reports 5: 16909.

Woodward A.S. 1888. On some remains of Squatina cranei, sp. nov., and the mandible of Belonostomus cinctus, from the chalk of Sussex, preserved in the collection of Henry Willett, Esq., F.G.S., Brighton Museum. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 44: 144–148. Available from [accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

Woodward A.S. 1890. The fossil fishes of the Hawkesbury Series at Gosford. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, Palaeontology 4: 1–55.

Woodward A.S. 1895. Catalogue of the Fossil Fishes in the British Museum (Natural History). Part III. British Museum (Natural History), London.

Woodward A.S. 1899. On the fossil fishes of the Upper Lias of Whitby. Part IV. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society 13: 455–472.

Wretman L., Blom H. & Kear B.P. 2016. Resolution of the Early Jurassic actinopterygian fish Pachycormus and a dispersal hypothesis for Pachycormiformes. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 36 (5): e1206022.

Wu F., Chang M.-M., Sun Y. & Xu G. 2013. A new saurichthyiform (Actinopterygii) with a crushing feeding mechanism from the Middle Triassic of Guizhou (China). PLoS ONE 8 (12): e81010.

Wu F.-X., Sun Y.-L., Hao W.-C., Jiang D.-Y. & Sun Z.-Y. 2015. A new species of Saurichthys (Actinopterygii; Saurichthyiformes) from the Middle Triassic of southwestern China, with remarks on pattern of the axial skeleton of saurichthyid fishes. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlungen 275 (3): 249–267.

Wunnenberg C. 1928. Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Lias ɛ in der Umgebung von Braunschweig. Jahresbericht des Vereins für Naturwissenschaft zu Braunschweig 20: 56–80.

How to Cite
Maxwell, E. E., & Stumpf, S. (2017). Revision of Saurorhynchus (Actinopterygii: Saurichthyidae) from the Early Jurassic of England and Germany. European Journal of Taxonomy, (321).