Permian tetrapod biochronology, correlation and evolutionary events
The most extensive Permian tetrapod (amphibian and reptile) fossil records from the western USA (New Mexico to Texas) and South Africa have been used to define 11 land vertebrate faunachrons (LVFs). These are, in ascending order, the Coyotean, Seymouran, Mitchellcreekian, Redtankian, Littlecrotonian, Kapteinskraalian, Gamkan, Hoedemakeran, Steilkransian, Platbergian and Lootsbergian. These faunachrons provide a biochronological framework with which to assign ages to, and correlate, Permian tetrapod fossil assemblages. Intercalated marine strata, radioisotopic ages and magnetostratigraphy were used to correlate the Permian LVFs to the standard global chronostratigraphic scale with varying degrees of precision. Such correlations identified the following significant events in Permian tetrapod evolution: a Coyotean chronofaunal event (end Coyotean); Redtankian events (Mitchellcreekian–Littlecrotonian); Olson’s gap (late Littlecrotonian); a therapsid event (Kapteinskraalian); a dinocephalian extinction event (end Gamkan); and a latest Permian extinction event (Platbergian–Lootsbergian boundary). Problems of incompleteness, endemism and taxonomy, and the relative lack of non-biochronological age control continue to hinder the refinement and correlation of a Permian timescale based on tetrapod biochronology. Nevertheless, the global Permian timescale based on tetrapod biochronology is a robust tool for both global and regional age assignment and correlation. Advances in Permian tetrapod biochronology will come from new fossil discoveries, more detailed biostratigraphy and additional alpha taxonomic studies based on sound evolutionary taxonomic principles.
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The Palaeozoic Era ends with the c. 47-million-year-long Permian Period. This was a major juncture in Earth history when the vast Pangean supercontinent continued its assembly and the global biota suffered the most extensive biotic decimation of the Phanerozoic, the end-Permian mass extinction. It was also the time of accumulation of vast mineral and energy deposits, notably of salt and petroleum. The temporal ordering of geological and biotic events during Permian time is, therefore, critical to the interpretation of some unique and pivotal events in Earth history. This temporal ordering is based mostly on the Permian timescale, which has been developed and refined for nearly two centuries. This book reviews the history of the development of the Permian chronostratigraphic scale. It also includes comprehensive analyses of Permian radioisotopic ages, magnetostratigraphy, isotope-based correlations, and timescale-relevant marine and non-marine biostratigraphy and biochronology.