The pre-eminence of the Karoo Basin in the knowledge of the Permo-Jurassic cynodonts: a historical synthesis and taxonomical quantification

The search for the ancestors of mammals is historically connected with the extensive Karoo Basin of South Africa. This is because the Karoo features some of the largest exposures of Permo-Jurassic terrestrial deposits in the world and fossil discoveries were made here early in the history of palaeontology. Among the mammal-like lineages that are well-represented in Karoo fossil assemblages are the cynodonts. Originally conceived as a group exclusively containing fossil taxa, Cynodontia was subsequently redefined to include living mammals, and its Permian and early Mesozoic members are now referred to as non-mammaliaform cynodonts. Here we present a historical account of the research programme on non-mammaliaform cynodonts in the Karoo Basin, which represent the most important record of this group in the world. It covers a time spanning from the first named species in 1859 until the present day, which we arbitrarily divided into three periods: the Early Period extending from 1859 until 1932, the Second Period from 1933 to 1982, and the Current Period from 1983 until now. In the context of the global record of named species, we present quantitative analyses documenting the total number of nominal non-mammaliaform cynodont species from the Karoo (including junior synonyms and homonyms) as well as numerical comparison with taxa currently considered valid. Lastly, we compare the record of non-mammaliaform cynodont species from South Africa with other places in the world, such as Argentina and Brazil, which also have a diverse record of this group.
non-mammaliaform cynodonts, South Africa, species, taxonomic validation