Browsing Volume 45 December 2010 by Issue Date
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ItemPreliminary investigation of the Matjhabeng, a Pliocene fossil locality in the Free State of South Africa(Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, 2010-12) de Ruiter, Darryl J.; Brophy, Juliet K.; Lewis, Patrick J.; Kennedy, Alicia M.; Stidham, Thomas A.; Carlson, Keely B.; Hancox, P. JohnThe early Pliocene is a relatively poorly understood period in southern Africa. Fossil deposits such as Langebaanweg (c. 5.0 Ma) and Makapansgat (c. 2.5 Ma) have each produced large and well-documented faunal assemblages, and it is clear that a significant turnover of fauna occurred between the early and late Pliocene respectively. However, the temporal separation between Langebaanweg and Makapansgat represents a significant gap in our knowledge of faunal composition and evolution in the Pliocene of southern Africa. In 2007 we began a programme of excavation at an early Pliocene locality referred to as Matjhabeng (formerly Virginia) in the Free State of South Africa. With an estimated age of 4.0–3.5 Ma, this site represents a temporal and geographic intermediate between the better known sites to the north and south. It also represents the only well-documented, river-deposited Pliocene locality in the central interior of southern Africa. After three years of excavation, we have recovered a diverse fauna that includes fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Mammals range in size from rodents to mammoths, including an array of proboscideans, perissodactyls and artiodactyls, alongside rare carnivores. We report here on the macromammalian assemblage recovered to date. In total, we have recognized 29 taxa, including the oldest Ancylotherium and the oldest Megalotragus fossils in southern Africa. Some of the taxa from Matjhabeng are shared with Langebaanweg, and others with Makapansgat, confirming the intermediate status of this locality. Isotopic analysis reveals the earliest indication of extensive grasslands in South Africa, though these grasslands were part of an environmental mosaic that included significant woodland, and probable wetland, components. ItemBotanical remains from a coprolite from the Pleistocene hominin site of Malapa, Sterkfontein Valley, South Africa(Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, 2010-12) Bamford, M.K.; Neumann, F.H.; Pereira, L.M.; Scott, L.; Dirks, P.H.G.M.; Berger, L.R.A coprolite probably from a carnivore described in this paper was recovered from the decalcified sediments of Facies D, close to the cranium of a hominid child, Australopithecus sediba, at Malapa, and is dated at 1.95–1.78 Ma based on a combination of faunal, U-Pb and palaeomagnetic dating techniques. Maceration of the coprolite yielded wood fragments and pollen of Podocarpus sp. as well as phytolith morphotypes that occur in leaves of Podocarpus and many other woody taxa. The Malapa site today is in the Grassland Biome, close to the transition to the Savanna Biome. Podocarpus/Afrocarpus occurs about 30km distance in the Northern Afromontane Forest Biome and is restricted to small patches in the mountain kloofs or small canyons (altitude: 1500–1900 m). The occurrence of this vegetation at Malapa in the past implies that the cooler, moister forest vegetation was more widespread. ItemA new GIS-based biozone map of the Beaufort Group (Karoo Supergroup), South Africa(Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, 2010-12) van der Walt, Merrill; Day, Michael; Rubidge, Bruce; Cooper, Antony K.; Netterberg, IngeThe stratigraphic subdivision of the Karoo Supergroup of South Africa has been addressed for more than a century by various geoscience studies. A lack of good lithostratigraphic markers in the Beaufort Group and the fact that the succession preserves a rich diversity of therapsid fossils for which there is a robust taxonomic scheme, make biostratigraphy the best option for correlation. This is applicable both within the basin and when comparing the Karoo succession to other coeval depositional basins. Published biostratigraphic maps of the Beaufort Group were compiled based on rough estimates of the distribution of zone-defining tetrapod fossil genera throughout the basin. None of these simultaneously utilized all the databases of South African museum collections. The recent application of GIS technology to integrate the vertebrate fossil databases of all South African museums has resulted in a far more precise biozone map which can be continuously updated as new information is received. This digital map introduces an entirely new way of representing the geographical distribution of fossil data, and thus can potentially enhance basin development and tetrapod biogeographic studies. ItemMassospondylus carinatus Owen 1854 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the Lower Jurassic of South Africa: Proposed conservation of the usage by designation of a neotype(Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, 2010-12) Yates, Adam M.; Barrett, Paul M.The purpose of this article is to preserve the usage of the binomen Massospondylus carinatus by designating a neotype specimen. Massospondylus is the most abundant basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic strata of southern Africa. This taxon forms the basis for an extensive palaeobiological literature and is the eponym of Massospondylidae and the nominal taxon of a biostratigraphical unit in current usage, the ‘Massospondylus Range Zone’. The syntype series of M. carinatus (five disarticulated and broken vertebrae) was destroyed during World War II, but plaster casts and illustrations of the material survive. Nonetheless, these materials cannot act as type material for this taxon under the rules of the ICZN Code. In order to avoid nomenclatural instability, we hereby designate BP/1/4934 (a skull and largely complete postcranial skeleton) as the neotype of Massospondylus carinatus. ItemA case of vertebrate fossil forgery from Madagascar(Bernard price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, 2010-12) Zipfel, Bernhard; Yates, Celeste; Yates, Adam M.