, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 187-196
Date: 03 Dec 2009

The Triassic dicynodont Kombuisia (Synapsida, Anomodontia) from Antarctica, a refuge from the terrestrial Permian-Triassic mass extinction

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Abstract

Fossils from the central Transantarctic Mountains in Antarctica are referred to a new species of the Triassic genus Kombuisia, one of four dicynodont lineages known to survive the end-Permian mass extinction. The specimens show a unique combination of characters only present in this genus, but the new species can be distinguished from the type species of the genus, Kombuisia frerensis, by the presence of a reduced but slit-like pineal foramen and the lack of contact between the postorbitals. Although incomplete, the Antarctic specimens are significant because Kombuisia was previously known only from the South African Karoo Basin and the new specimens extend the taxon’s biogeographic range to a wider portion of southern Pangaea. In addition, the new finds extend the known stratigraphic range of Kombuisia from the Middle Triassic subzone B of the Cynognathus Assemblage Zone into rocks that are equivalent in age to the Lower Triassic Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone, shortening the proposed ghost lineage of this taxon. Most importantly, the occurrence of Kombuisia and Lystrosaurus mccaigi in the Lower Triassic of Antarctica suggests that this area served as a refuge from some of the effects of the end-Permian extinction. The composition of the lower Fremouw Formation fauna implies a community structure similar to that of the ecologically anomalous Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone of South Africa, providing additional evidence for widespread ecological disturbance in the extinction’s aftermath.