a1 UMR 5554: Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution de Montpellier, Université de Montpellier 2, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier cedex 5, France
Recent field work in the southern Moroccan Sahara (‘Western Sahara’), south of the city of ad-Dakhla, has led to the discovery of several new fossiliferous sites with fossil vertebrates in sedimentary deposits previously reported for the Mio-Pliocene. The sedimentology and geological setting of the studied area are briefly reported here, and at least three units have been identified in successive stratigraphical sequences according to their fossil content. The first preliminary list of vertebrate associations is reported and consists mainly of isolated teeth belonging to selachian and bony fishes, a proboscidean tooth currently assigned to ?Numidotherium sp. and many remains of archaeocete whales (Basilosauridae). At least 48 species of selachians are presently identified; many of them are new and others are recorded in the late Middle Eocene (Bartonian) and Late Eocene (Priabonian) of Wadi Al-Hitan (Egypt) or Wadi Esh-Shallala Formation (Jordan) as in other African localities (e.g. Otodus cf. sokolowi, ‘Cretolamna’ twiggsensis, Xiphodolamia serrata, Misrichthys stromeri, Hemipristis curvatus, Galeocerdo cf. eaglesomi, Propristis schweinfurthi), probably indicating a Late Eocene age for unit 2 of the bedrock successions. The evolutionary trend noticeable on the proboscidean tooth is in agreement with such an assumption, by comparison with the close relative species known from the Eocene of Egypt, Libya and Algeria. Indeed, the faunal associations from the Dakhla area clearly demonstrate the erroneous age of these deposits, previously thought to be Mio-Pliocene. It suggests a correlation in age (late Middle Eocene–Late Eocene) and a similar environment with the famous marine deposits from Egypt and Jordan. It opens new opportunities to understand the biogeography and the surprising similarity of landscape between West and Northeast Africa during the Bartonian–Priabonian period.
(Received September 23 2009)
(Accepted March 01 2010)
(Online publication May 04 2010)