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Evidence of a therapsid scavenger in the Late Permian Karoo Basin, South Africa

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      Abstract

      Dicynodonts are an extinct group of herbivorous non-mammalian therapsids ('mammal-like' reptiles) that are widely known from terrestrial Permo-Triassic strata throughout Pangaea. Dicynodont fossil remains are common within the Late Permian Beaufort Group of the Karoo Basin in South Africa. A large, partially articulated dicynodont skeleton recovered from the Tropidostoma Assemblage Zone is taphonomically important in having an unusual disarticulation pattern, bone surface punctures and a broken tooth of an unidentified carnivore associated with it. Here we report on the nature of the bone damage, and the identity of the carnivore that lost a canine tooth whilst scavenging the dicynodont carcass. The morphological characteristics of the serrations on the unidentified tooth were compared with those of contemporaneous carnivores, the gorgonopsians and therocephalians. Scanning electron microscopy analysis of a silicone cast of the unidentified tooth revealed distinctive 0.5-mm square-shaped serrations. Our comparative assessment of the tooth size, curvature, cross-sectional shape and morphology of the serrations revealed that the unidentified canine most closely matched Aelurognathus, a gorgonopsian known from the same assemblage zone.

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      Taphonomic and ecologic information from bone weathering

      Bones of recent mammals in the Amboseli Basin, southern Kenya, exhibit distinctive weathering characteristics that can be related to the time since death and to the local conditions of temperature, humidity and soil chemistry. A categorization of weathering characteristics into six stages, recognizable on descriptive criteria, provides a basis for investigation of weathering rates and processes. The time necessary to achieve each successive weathering stage has been calibrated using known-age carcasses. Most bones decompose beyond recognition in 10 to 15 yr. Bones of animals under 100 kg and juveniles appear to weather more rapidly than bones of large animals or adults. Small-scale rather than widespread environmental factors seem to have greatest influence on weathering characteristics and rates. Bone weathering is potentially valuable as evidence for the period of time represented in recent or fossil bone assemblages, including those on archeological sites, and may also be an important tool in censusing populations of animals in modern ecosystems.
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        Prey Selection and Hunting Behavior of the African Wild Dog

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          Vertebrate Taphonomy of Late Permian Floodplain Deposits in the Southwestern Karoo Basin of South Africa

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] University of Cape Town South Africa
            [2 ] Iziko South African Museum South Africa
            Contributors
            Role: ND
            Role: ND
            Role: ND
            Journal
            sajs
            South African Journal of Science
            S. Afr. j. sci.
            Academy of Science of South Africa (Pretoria )
            1996-7489
            2012
            : 108
            : 11-12
            : 114-118
            S0038-23532012000600022

            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

            Product
            Product Information: SciELO South Africa
            Categories
            Biology
            Humanities, Multidisciplinary

            General life sciences

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