Abstract

Fossil discoveries from South Africa have greatly expanded knowledge of the development of life on Earth. In particular, the enormous palaeontological wealth of the Karoo, covering a period of almost 100 million years from the Permian to the Jurassic, has enhanced understanding of the evolution of important tetrapod lineages, including mammals and dinosaurs. These fossils provide the best record of continental Permian to Jurassic faunal biodiversity, and have been crucial to studies of the global Permo-Triassic mass extinction in the continental realm, as well as giving insight into other extinction events. Recent collaborative interdisciplinary studies of stratigraphic and geographic distribution patterns of Karoo fossils have enhanced biostratigraphic resolution and global correlation of vertebrate faunas from the Permian to the Jurassic. This in turn has led to a better understanding of the biodiversity across Pangaea, and the places of origin and initial diversity of early tetrapod evolutionary lineages. Many of these originated in the southern African portion of the Gondwanan super-continent. The combination of palaeontological and sedimentological studies has led to new basin development models and solved problems which each discipline in isolation could not have achieved.

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