Paleogene fish fauna of Mali, West Africa

Fishes form a substantial part of the fossil fauna of the Early Paleogene (60-40 million years ago) of Mali but have not been properly identified or described. The fishes inhabited the Trans-Saharan Sea that existed at this time across northwestern Africa.

The Mali fauna contains a mixture of fishes whose modern representatives are either:

  1. mainly freshwater, including:
    • lungfish
    • catfish
    • osteoglossids (bony tongues)
    • perches of the genus Lates
  2. mainly marine, such as:
    • sharks
    • rays

Key aims of current research:

  • To identify and describe the fishes.
  • To place the fishes within a phylogentic framework to test hypotheses of palaeobiogeography and the modern geographic distribution of some fish families (for example catfishes and osteoglossids). The catfish fossils also provide information on the timing of evolutionary events hypothesised in molecular phylogenetic trees of modern catfishes.
  • To resolve the enigmatic faunal mix (marine or freshwater) and establish the palaeoecology of the fauna.
  • To establish the age and extent of the last (Paleogene) Trans-Saharan Seaway.
  • To determine the affinities of Paleogene fish faunas of the Tethyan realm to the north of the Sahara and those of the South Atlantic area to the south, by comparison with the Mali fish faunas.
Staff involved in this project:

Dr Alison Longbottom

Project staff

  • Dr Alison Longbottom