The first complete vertebral column of a basal tapinocephalid dinocephalian (Synapsida: Therapsida)
Author: Romala Govender, Bruce Rubidge and Alain Renault
Publication: South African Journal of Science 98
Date: July/August 2002
Non-mammalian therapsids (‘mammal-like reptiles’) were the most common continental vertebrates during Permo-Triassic times. A rich fossil record from several continents documents the acquisition of mammalian characteristics among advanced therapsids. In contrast, the record of the early and most basal therapsids is poorly known and restricted to only a few countries. Dinocephalians are a major subgroup of basal therapsids and are impressive because of their large size. They were the first terrestrial tetrapods to attain body lengths in excess oi three metres. Members of this group are known predominantly from Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and recently China and Brazil. Although dinocephalians are relatively abundant, most genera are represented by very fragmentary cranial and postcranial materiai. This paper reports on the first completely articulated dinocephaiian vertebral column with associated limbs, a find that has significance for the understanding of the morphology and palaeobiology of this important group of extinct tetrapods.