Dr. Erin Maxwell

Fossil aquatic Vertebrates

Research Interests

Project 1: Posidonia Shale

 The Posidonia Shale was deposited during the late Early Jurassic (Toarcian: ~180 MYA) over 2–3 million years. This black shale is characterized by exceptional preservation, including both vertebrates and invertebrates with fossilized soft tissues. Cropping out in southern Germany and northern Switzerland, it is still quarried commercially in the region of the village of Holzmaden, in Baden-Württemberg. The Posidonia Shale has been intensively studied for over 400 years, resulting in extensive museum collections. I am currently investigating morphological and ecological changes in the Posidonia Shale fishes and marine reptiles in response to well-documented paleoenvironmental changes related to climatic warming and sea level rise during the early Toarcian.

Posidonia Shale, Bad Boll, Germany


Project 2: Ichthyosaur diversity and paleobiology

Ichthyosaurs were a group of secondarily marine reptiles, superficially resembling living dolphins. First appearing in the Early Triassic, the group rapidly diversified, evolving a suite of morphologies thought to be associated with an increasingly off-shore habitat. Research interest in ichthyosaurs has increased dramatically in recent years, with a plethora of newly described genera from all over the world. However, the evolutionary relationships within the group remain controversial. I am currently involved in ongoing collaborative projects describing new ichthyosaur taxa and working on refining our understanding of their evolutionary relationships. I am also investigating the factors controlling intraspecific variation in the group.

Eurhinosaurus, Museum am Löwentor permanent exhibition