Research projects

Prof. Dr. Christian Klug
Taxonomic, morphological and functional diversity of Placodermi and Chondrichthyes from the Late Devonian of Morocco
May 2019 to April 2023
Funding sources
SNF, Personen- und Projektförderung
Dr. Martin Rücklin, Naturalis, Leiden (The Netherlands)
Prof. Dr. Michael Coates, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago (USA)
world map
The Devonian is often called the “age of fishes” because during the Middle Palaeozoic, jawed vertebrates are abundant in the Devonian sediments and increase in the Devonian compared to the Silurian. In the marine realm, ever more complex foodwebs evolved by the Middle Devonian, in which cephalopods and vertebrates apparently played important roles as predators. Although a likely scenario, it is difficult to assess the roles of the players due to the often incomplete preservation (isolated bones etc.) and the scarcity of information on trophic relationships.
The Moroccan Anti-Atlas is characterized by vast fossiliferous outcrops of Devonian
strata. As demonstrated during the preceding project (“A new Fossillagerstätte from the Late Devonian of Morocco: faunal composition, taphonomy and palaeoecology”), the Maïder Basin yields faunal associations of varying compositions including
exceptionally preserved jawed fishes. These associations allow for unique insights into ecological changes including the varying roles of the different gnathostomes. In this project, we plan the following sequence of studies:
1.Description of new chondrichthyan and placoderm species from the Famennian.
2. Refine details of the phylogeny of early vertebrates from the Devonian based on
our new, often rather complete material.
3.The new anatomical information will enable us to more accurately identify the
ecological requirements of these Late Devonian chondrichthyans and placoderms. In turn, we will better understand the extinction of placoderms
and the survival of chondrichthyans. This question is of interest to better understand
ecological changes in marine habitats caused by, e.g., selective fishing today.
Devonian, Chondrichthyes, Placodermi, palaeoecology, macroecology, functional morphology, phylogeny
Becker, R. T., Hartenfels, S., Klug, C., Aboussalam, Z. S. & Afhüppe, L. (2018): The cephalopod-rich Famennian and Tournaisian of the Aguelmous Syncline (southern Maïder). Münstersche Forschungsberichte zur Geologie und Paläontologie 110 (1): 273–306.
Frey, L., Pohle, A., Rücklin, M. & Klug, C. (in preparation a): Fossil-Lagerstätten and preservation of vertebrates and invertebrates from the Devonian of Morocco (eastern Anti-Atlas).
Frey, L., Rücklin, M., Korn, D. & Klug, C. (2018): Late Devonian and Early Carboniferous alpha diversity, ecospace occupation, vertebrate assemblages and bio-events of southeastern Morocco. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology,
Palaeoecology 496: 1–17.
Frey, L., Coates, M., Ginter, M., Hairapetian, V. & Klug, C. (in preparation b): First cranial and skeletal remains of Phoebodus (Chondrichthyes: Elasmobranchii) from the Maïder region, northeastern Anti-Atlas, Morocco.
Ginter, M., Hairapetian, V. & Klug, C. (2002): Famennian chondrichthyans from the shelves of North Gondwana. Acta Geologica Polonica 52: 169–215.
Klug, C., Frey, L., Korn, D., Jattiot, R. & Rücklin, M. (2016): The oldest Gondwanan cephalopod mandibles (Hangenberg Black Shale, Late Devonian) and the Mid-Palaeozoic rise of jaws. Palaeontology 59: 611–629. doi: 10.1111/pala.12248
Klug, C., Frey, L., Pohle, A., De Baets, K. & Korn, D. (2017): Palaeozoic evolution of animal mouthparts. Bulletin of Geosciences 92: 511–524.
Klug, C., Kröger, B., Kiessling, W., Mullins, G. L., Servais, T., Frýda, J., Korn, D. & Turner, S. (2010): The Devonian nekton revolution. Lethaia 43: 465–477.
Klug, C., Kröger, B., Rücklin, M., Korn, D., Schemm-Gregory, M., De Baets, K. & Mapes, R. H. (2008): Ecological change during the early Emsian (Devonian) in the Tafilalt (Morocco), the origin of the Ammonoidea, and the first African
pyrgocystid edrioasteroids, machaerids and phyllocarids. Palaeontographica A 283: 1–94 + pls. 1–7
Klug, C. & Vallon, L. H. (in press, 2019): Regurgitated ammonoid remains from the latest Devonian of Morocco. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology: ca. 12 pp.
Rücklin, M., Lelièvre, H. & Klug, C. (2018): Placodermi from the Early Devonian Kess-Kess Mounds of Hamar Laghdad, Southern Morocco. – In: Klug, C. & Korn, D. (eds.): Palaeontology of the Devonian of Hamar Laghdad (Tafilalt, Morocco). Special volume honouring Jobst Wendt. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen, ca. 10 pp.