Lystrosaurus species composition across the Permo–Triassic boundary in the Karoo Basin of South Africa




Jennifer Botha [], National Museum, PO Box 266, Bloemfontein, 9300 South Africa; Roger M. H. Smith [], Karoo Palaeontology, Natural History Division, Iziko, South African Museum, PO Box 61, Cape Town, 8000 South Africa.


Lystrosaurus is one of the few therapsid genera that survived the end-Permian mass extinction, and the only genus to have done so in abundance. This study identifies which species of Lystrosaurus have been recovered from Permian and Triassic strata to determine changes in the species composition across the Permo–Triassic (P–T) boundary in the Karoo Basin of South Africa. Data generated from museum collections and recent fieldwork were used to stratigraphically arrange a total of 189 Lystrosaurus specimens to determine which species survived the extinction event. Results reveal that L. curvatus and L. maccaigi lived together on the Karoo floodplains immediately before the extinction event. L. maccaigi did not survive into the Triassic in South Africa. L. curvatus survived, but did not flourish and soon became extinct. Two new species of Lystrosaurus, L. murrayi and L. declivis, appeared in the Early Triassic. It is possible that L. murrayi and L. declivis occupied different niches to L. maccaigi and L. curvatus, and had special adaptations that were advantageous in an Early Triassic environment. We suggest that L. maccaigi may be used as a biostratigraphic marker to indicate latest Permian strata in South Africa and that, in support of previous proposals, the genus Lystrosaurus should not be used as a sole indicator of Triassic-aged strata. Our field data also show that L. curvatus may be regarded as a biostratigraphic indicator of the P–T boundary interval.