Field of Science

New Record of Large Archosauromorphs from the Early Triassic of Antarctica

Smith, N. D., Crandall, J. R., Hellert, S. M., Hammer, W. R., and P. J. Makovicky. 2011. Anatomy and affinities of large archosauromorphs from the lower Fremouw Formation (Early Triassic) of Antarctica. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31:784-797. DOI:10.1080/02724634.2011.586662

Abstract - The vertebrate assemblage of the lower Fremouw Formation has been studied for nearly 50 years, but many components remain poorly known. We describe a partial presacral vertebra and the distal end of a left humerus collected just above the Permian–Triassic boundary in the Shackleton Glacier region of the central Transantarctic Mountains. Our identification of these specimens as archosauromorphs that represent at least one taxon of large-bodied archosauriform increases the known reptile diversity of the Fremouw Formation considerably, and provides the first definitive evidence for the presence of Archosauriformes in the Early Triassic of Antarctica. These records increase faunal similarities between the lower Fremouw Formation and other Early Triassic assemblages. Although the lower Fremouw assemblage is typically considered a subset of the coeval Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone (LAZ) of South Africa, the discrepancy in inferred body size between the Antarctic specimens and Proterosuchus fergusi, coupled with the fact that the LAZ of the Karoo Basin has been sampled much more thoroughly, suggests a real disparity in the maximum body size of apex carnivores between the lower Fremouw assemblage and the LAZ. The lower Fremouw specimens also demonstrate that one or more lineages of archosauriform had attained the large body size characteristic of later members of the clade very soon after the end-Permian mass extinction. This offers a point of contrast with the global pattern of post-extinction terrestrial communities, which are typified by a marked reduction in body size (the ‘Lilliput effect’).

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