Redescription of a Lower Triassic Synapsid and a Reappraissal of Lower Triassic Therocephalian Biostratigraphy

Botha-Brink, J., and S. P. Modesto. 2011. A new skeleton of the Therocephalian synapsid Olivierosuchus parringtoni from the Lower Triassic South African Karoo Basin. Palaeontology Early View. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01048.x

Abstract - We provide a redescription of the therocephalian therapsid Olivierosuchus parringtoni based on a new specimen recovered from the Lower Triassic Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone of South Africa and discuss the biostratigraphic implications of Lower Triassic South African therocephalians. The new specimen comprises a skull and articulated anterior portion of the postcranial skeleton. Olivierosuchus parringtoni can be distinguished from its akidnognathid relatives, Promoschorhynchus and Moschorhinus, by the presence of a relatively slender snout. Features that further distinguish Olivierosuchus from Promoschorhynchus include fewer upper postcanines, an obtuse angle of the transverse process of the pterygoid and an oblique alignment of the suborbital fenestra margin of the palatine. Features that further distinguish Olivierosuchus from Moschorhinus include the presence of a sharp rather than blunt crista choanalis, a spatulate posterior portion of the ectopterygoid instead of a narrow shaft, the presence of prominent pterygoid tuberosities and a narrow, elongated tabular. A reappraisal of Lower Triassic therocephalian biostratigraphy reveals that most of these taxa are restricted to the lowermost part of the Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone revealing a high diversity, whereafter the diversity decreases dramatically in the middle of the zone. However, despite their scarcity in the middle and upper Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone, therocephalians in the Karoo Basin remain the most diverse therapsid clade in the lowermost Triassic, which suggests that they were able to recover relatively quickly from the end-Permian extinction event and form an important part of the postextinction earliest Triassic recovery.

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