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ABSTRACT: Detailed information about the chemical composition and evolution of Mars has been derived principally from the SNC (shergottite-nakhlite-chassignite) meteorites, which are genetically related igneous rocks of Martian origin. They are chemically and texturally similar to terrestrial basalts and cumulates, except that they have higher concentrations of iron and volatile elements such as phosphorus and chlorine and lower concentrations of nickel and other chalcophile (sulphur-loving) elements. Most Martian meteorites have relatively young crystallization ages (1.4 billion years to 180 million years ago) and are considered to be derived from young, lightly cratered volcanic regions, such as the Tharsis plateau. Surface rocks from the Gusev crater analysed by the Spirit rover are much older (about 3.7 billion years old) and exhibit marked compositional differences from the meteorites. Although also basaltic in composition, the surface rocks are richer in nickel and sulphur and have lower manganese/iron ratios than the meteorites. This has led to doubts that Mars can be described adequately using the 'SNC model'. Here we show, however, that the differences between the compositions of meteorites and surface rocks can be explained by differences in the oxygen fugacity during melting of the same sulphur-rich mantle. This ties the sources of Martian meteorites to those of the surface rocks through an early (>3.7 billion years ago) oxidation of the uppermost mantle that had less influence on the deeper regions, which produce the more recent volcanic rocks.
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ABSTRACT: Pliosaurids were a long-lived and cosmopolitan group of marine predators that spanned 110 million years and occupied the upper tiers of marine ecosystems from the Middle Jurassic until the early Late Cretaceous. A well-preserved giant pliosaurid skull from the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation of Dorset, United Kingdom, represents a new species, Pliosaurus kevani. This specimen is described in detail, and the taxonomy and systematics of Late Jurassic pliosaurids is revised. We name two additional new species, Pliosaurus carpenteri and Pliosaurus westburyensis, based on previously described relatively complete, well-preserved remains. Most or all Late Jurassic pliosaurids represent a globally distributed monophyletic group (the genus Pliosaurus, excluding 'Pliosaurus' andrewsi). Despite its high species diversity, and geographically widespread, temporally extensive occurrence, Pliosaurus shows relatively less morphological and ecological variation than is seen in earlier, multi-genus pliosaurid assemblages such as that of the Middle Jurassic Oxford Clay Formation. It also shows less ecological variation than the pliosaurid-like Cretaceous clade Polycotylidae. Species of Pliosaurus had robust skulls, large body sizes (with skull lengths of 1.7-2.1 metres), and trihedral or subtrihedral teeth suggesting macropredaceous habits. Our data support a trend of decreasing length of the mandibular symphysis through Late Jurassic time, as previously suggested. This may be correlated with increasing adaptation to feeding on large prey. Maximum body size of pliosaurids increased from their first appearance in the Early Jurassic until the Early Cretaceous (skull lengths up to 2360 mm). However, some reduction occurred before their final extinction in the early Late Cretaceous (skull lengths up to 1750 mm).
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