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Abstract:

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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