Quaternary herpetofaunas of the British Isles : Taxonomic descriptions,palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, and biostratigraphic implications

  • Christopher Paul Gleed-Owen

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This project aims to study fossil amphibian and reptile (herpetofaunal) remains from Quaternary sites in the British Isles. This neglected group of vertebrates hold great potential for Quaternary Science. Collectively, they cover a wide range of ecological tolerances, although individual species often have very specific tolerances.

    The biology and ecology of individual species are discussed (Chapter 2) to facilitate their use in Quaternary palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, and an account of previous work on fossil herpetofaunas is given (Chapter 3). Very little work on fossil herpetofaunas has been carried out in the British Isles, mainly due to a lack of the required osteological expertise. The
    preparation and study of a modem osteological collection (Chapter 4), for comparative purposes, has therefore constituted a large and essential part of the project. The resulting manual for the identification of fossil herpetofaunal remains, appropriately illustrated with SEM's and hand-drawn figures, is presented (Chapter 5). The difficulties encountered in identifying some taxa are discussed in detail, and points of caution are stressed where necessary.

    The acquired proficiency has been applied to over forty sites, from
    which herpetofaunal remains are systematically described (Chapter 6). The existing stratigraphic, biotic and archaeological evidence from these sites is considered alongside the new findings, which include the AMS radiocarbon dating of herpetofaunal remains. Palaeoenvironmental, biostratigraphic, zoogeographic and other inferences are discussed, and their place within the existing Quaternary framework for the British Isles is considered (Chapters
    7 -9). Specific topics relating to the interpretation of fossil herpetofaunas are discussed (Chapter 7), and a synthesis of herpetostratigraphic data and its implications is presented (Chapter 8). The natterjack toad, Bufo calamita, has proved especially useful in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, and particular space is devoted to this species (Chapter 9). Suggestions for future work are set out in the final section.

    Date of Award1998
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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