Field of Science

Reevaluation of Therapsid Fossils from Antarctica

Huttenlocker, A. K., and C. A. Sidor. 2012. Taxonomic Revision of Therocephalians (Therapsida: Theriodontia) from the Lower Triassic of Antarctica. American Museum Novitates Number 3738 :1-19.

Abstract - We reevaluate the taxonomic status of therocephalian fossils recovered from the lower Fremouw Formation (Lower Triassic) of the central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. The material, which includes mostly fragmentary juvenile specimens, is reidentified using an apomorphy-based approach. We recognize the presence of three higher-level taxa: Eutherocephalia, Akidnognathidae, and Baurioidea. The only genus-level identification is for a partial lower jaw and pterygoid tentatively attributed to the baurioid, Ericiolacerta parva. An indeterminate theriodont partial skull is reassigned to the therocephalian family Akidnognathidae. The holotypes of Pedaeosaurus parvus and Rhigosaurus glacialis are represented by indeterminate juvenile baurioids and, in the absence of clear autapomorphies, are considered nomina dubia. The results of the taxonomic revision indicate that the therocephalian fauna of Antarctica lacks endemic genera and thus corresponds to that of the Triassic Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone fauna of South Africa's Karoo Basin. More generally, we consider the southern Gondwanan basins of South Africa and Antarctica to sample a broadly distributed Lower Triassic tetrapod fauna, although the latter basin documents the first occurrence of several taxa (e.g., Kombuisia, Palacrodon). More precise (i.e., species-level) identifications are needed to better constrain the biogeographic signal for therocephalians, but the presence of juveniles strongly suggests that this group of therapsids, like dicynodonts, were year-round high-latitude inhabitants during Early Triassic times.

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