Abstract

The Massospondylus Assemblage Zone is the youngest tetrapod biozone in the Karoo Basin (upper Stormberg Group, Karoo Supergroup) and records one of the oldest dinosaur dominated ecosystems in southern Gondwana. Recent qualitative and quantitative investigations into the biostratigraphy of the lower and upper Elliot formations (lEF, uEF) and Clarens Formation in the main Karoo Basin resulted in the first biostratigraphic review of this stratigraphic interval in nearly four decades, allowing us to introduce a new biostratigraphic scheme, the Massospondylus Assemblage Zone (MAZ). The MAZ expands upon the Massospondylus Range Zone by including the crocodylomorph Protosuchus haughtoni and the ornithischian Lesothosaurus diagnosticus as two co-occurring index taxa alongside the main index taxon, the sauropodomorph Massospondylus carinatus. With a maximum thickness of ~320 m in the southeastern portion of the basin, our new biozone is contained within the uEF and Clarens formations (upper Stormberg Group), however, based on vertebrate ichnofossils evidence, it may potentially extend into the sedimentary units of the lowermost Drakensberg Group. We do not propose any further subdivisions, and do not consider the Tritylodon Acme Zone (TAZ) as a temporal biostratigraphic marker within the MAZ. The MAZ is currently accepted to range in age between the Hettangian and Pliensbachian, however a faunal turnover, which observes an increase in the diversity of dinosaur clades, crocodylomorph, and mammaliaform taxa in the lower uEF, could reflect effects of the end-Triassic extinction event (ETE).

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