Field of Science

Cynodonts and More Cynodonts

The current issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology has two articles on Gondwanan cynodonts that are important for Middle Triassic biostratigraphy.

Abdala, F., and R.M.H. Smith. 2009. A Middle Triassic Cynodont Fauna from Namibia and Its Implications for the Biogeography of Gondwana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:837-851. doi: 10.1671/039.029.0303

Abstract - The upper Omingonde Formation of Namibia contains a diverse vertebrate fauna represented by amphibians, dicynodonts, archosaurs, therocephalians, and cynodonts, which is generally considered to be of Anisian age. Four cynodont taxa (Cynognathus, Diademodon, Trirachodon, and Titanogomphodon) are currently known from this fauna. Here we document four additional cynodonts, all of which were recovered from the highest levels of the formation: Luangwa, an indeterminate traversodontid, Aleodon, and Chiniquodon. These discoveries allow us to recognize the Omingonde Formation as preserving the most diverse fauna of Middle Triassic cynodonts in the world. Furthermore, we recognize that the formation is a biostratigraphic link among Middle Triassic faunas from South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Argentina, Brazil, and Antarctica. Aleodon is recorded here for the first time in Anisian faunas of southern Africa, and the unexpected record of Chiniquodon poses a biostratigraphic enigma because this taxon is known only from Ladinian—Carnian faunas of South America. We explore some possible scenarios related to the radiation of traversodontid cynodonts in Gondwana during the Anisian.

Martinelli, A.G., de la Fuente, M., and F. Abdala. 2009. Diademodon tetragonus Seeley, 1894 (Therapsida: Cynodontia) in the Triassic of South America and Its Biostratigraphic Implications. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:852-862. doi: 10.1671/039.029.0315

Abstract - We report for the first time the presence of the cynodont Diademodon tetragonus Seeley, 1894 in the South American Triassic. The specimen, represented by a fragmented skull and lower jaws, was found in levels of the Rio Seco de la Quebrada Formation (Puesto Viejo Group), Mendoza Province, Argentina. It is assigned to D. tetragonus based on its overall skull shape (narrow and elongated snout with a concave outline in dorsal view), the morphology of the jugal that forms most of the dorsoventral depth of the zygoma and shows a well-excavated external auditory meatus, and a postcanine series including circular outlined anterior teeth, ovoid gomphodont teeth in the middle, and posterior sectorial teeth. The association of this taxon with the cynodonts Cynognathus crateronotus and Pascualgnathus polanskii, along with comparisons to African Triassic assemblages, suggest an Early to Late Anisian age for the Río Seco de la Quebrada Formation. These levels are most likely correlated to the subzones B and C of the South African Cynognathus Assemblage Zone, where both Cynognathus and Diademodon are known. This discovery represents the fourth report of shared cynodont genera between allegedly Lower to Middle Triassic African and South American terrestrial faunas.

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