Of all the transitional series amongst the major groups of vertebrates, one of the most extraordinary and best documented is the transition from primitive amniotes to mammals. Amniotes are vertebrates whose embryos are totally enclosed in a fluid-filled sac, called the amnion and include living reptiles, birds and mammals. About 350 million years ago, the amniotes gave rise to two different lineages, namely the reptiles and the mammals. The group of animals that include mammals and all their ancestors is called the Synapsida. The early synapsids that lived between 260 and 180 million years ago are known as therapsids, a particularly significant group in the study of mammalian evolution as they are the direct ancestors of living mammals.
The South African Karoo Basin contains the best therapsid fossil record in the whole world giving us the exciting opportunity of being able to study the intricate details of the transition into mammals. These animals, that span a period of more than 80 million years from the Middle Permian to the Middle Jurassic, show the gradual acquisition of mammal-like characteristics until it is almost impossible to distinguish the latest most mammal-like therapsids from the earliest true mammals.
The research conducted in the Karoo Palaeontology Department focuses on the biology, ecology and biostratigraphy of these very important animals. Regular field excursions to the Karoo have allowed us to expand our current vertebrate collection and thus conserve these fossils, which form an important part of South Africa’s natural heritage.
A new giant dinosaur from the South African Free State Province
2 October 2018
A new species of a giant dinosaur has been found in South Africa’s Free State Province. The plant-eating dinosaur, named Ledumahadi mafube, weighed 12 tonnes and stood about four metres high at the hips.Ledumahadi mafube was the largest land animal alive on Earth when it lived, nearly 200 million years ago. It was roughly double the size of a large African elephant. A team of international scientists, led by University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) palaeontologist Professor Jonah Choiniere, described the new species in the journal Current Biology. Ledumahadi mafube is one of the closest relatives of sauropod dinosaurs. Sauropods, weighing up to 60 tonnes, include well-known species like Brontosaurus. All sauropods ate plants and stood on four legs, with a posture like modern elephants. Ledumahadi evolved its giant size independently from sauropods, and although it stood on four legs, its forelimbs would have been more crouched. This caused the scientific team to consider Ledumahadi an evolutionary “experiment” with giant body size. Dr Botha-Brink investigated the life history of this animal by studying its bone microstructure. The animal grew rapidly to adulthood and was practically fully grown when it died. Its bone tissues display aspects of both basal sauropodomorphs and the more derived sauropods, showing that Ledumahadi represents a transitional stage between these two major groups of dinosaurs.
The palaeobiology of Brazilian cynodonts, the ancestors of mammals
2 October 2018
Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink from the Karoo Palaeontology Department at the National Museum has just published research in the journal PeerJ entitled “Osteohistology of Late Triassic prozostrodontian cynodonts from Brazil” in collaboration with Brazilian and Argentinean colleagues Drs Marina Bento Soares and Agustín Martinelli from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. This contribution sheds new light on the palaeobiology of the ancestors of mammals. Known as non-mammaliaform cynodonts, these animals gave rise to mammals during the Early Jurassic, around 200 million years ago. Dr Botha-Brink and colleagues studied the bone microstructure of several members of the Prozostrodontia, the cynodont group most closely related to mammals, in order to decipher the growth patterns of these animals and compare them with those of living mammals. Some of the earliest prozostrodontians were about the size of an opposum whereas the later brasilodontids were tiny, similar in size to that of a modern shrew. All prozostrodontian cynodonts grew rapidly to maturity, but the later, tiny brasilodontid prozostrodontians grew relatively more slowly than their ancestors and more like that of the mammaliaform Morganucodon, an immediate precursor of the modern mammal lineage (monotremes and therians). This may be due to similar body sizes or the close family relationship between brasilodontids and mammaliaforms. Interestingly, when compared with similar-sized living mammals, they appear to have grown more slowly to adult size. Although the Prozostrodontia acquired increasingly mammalian features during their evolution, including rapid juvenile growth, the small brasilodontid prozostrodontians still exhibit an extended growth period compared to similar-sized living mammals.
Visit by previous head of department
12 January 2017
Prof. Steve Fourie (right) was the head of the Karoo Palaeontology Department in the early 1970s. During this time he and John Nyaphuli worked closely together. John joined the Museum in 1973 and soon showed talent for preparing fossils. During his time here he developed into the best fossil preparator in the country and one of the best in the world. After his retirement John remains involved at the Museum where he assists with training and also prepares delicate fossils. Prof. Fourie later left the Museum to accept a post at the University of the Free State, where he retired in 1998. He visited the Karoo Palaeontology Department where he and John, both 83 years old, caught up on days gone by.
10 January 2017
Dr Lucas Legendre from Paris joined the Karoo Palaeontology Department in July as a Postdoctoral Fellow for two years. He is working with Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink on the bone microstructure of burrowing animals. The ecology of an animal plays an important role in influencing the way bone tissue grows. Dr Legendre’s research aims to identify how a burrowing lifestyle affects bone tissue patterns. Results will be used to infer burrowing or digging behaviours from the fossil bone microstructure of extinct animals. This kind of evidence can shed light on the ecology of an extinct animal when other avenues (e.g. skeletal anatomy) remain ambiguous.
Specialist Museum Scientist and Head of Department
Jennifer Botha PhD, Pr Sci Nat email@example.com
My research interests are in palaeobiology and palaeoecology, focusing on the life history responses of extinct vertebrates to environmental change. Using the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction (PTME) as a model, I use a variety of techniques, including biostratigraphy, morphology and osteohistology, to test theories regarding differential species survival during mass extinctions. I have a special interest in osteohistology, the study of fossil bone microstructure, which provides novel information about the life history of the vertebrates associated with the PTME.
My PhD research (University of Cape Town, 2002) entailed the development and application of a variety of techniques used to assess the biology of extinct vertebrates, including osteohistology and stable isotope analysis, focusing on the palaeohistology of cynodont therapsids (the ancient ancestors of mammals). Thereafter, I took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Iziko Museums of South Africa, during which time I focused largely on the biostratigraphy of the Permo-Triassic Karoo Basin. Since 2005, I have been head of the Karoo Palaeontology Department of the National Museum, Bloemfontein and Affiliated Researcher with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of the Free State, where I have established a long-term research programme studying macro- and micro-skeletal structure, as well as spatial and temporal distributions of Permo-Triassic fossil vertebrates to gain a deeper understanding of the biotic crisis associated with the PTME.
I have presented or co-authored more than 30 conference presentations at both national conferences and abroad, published more than 35 articles in national and international scientific journals and am a B-rated scientist (National Research Foundation). Current research interests include the biology and ecology of Permo-Triassic vertebrates, the end-Permian mass extinction event and subsequent recovery, and the bone histology of fossil vertebrates.
Collections Manager and Principal Research Assistant
Elize Butler MSc firstname.lastname@example.org
Elize Butler has been working at the National Museum since 1993. She obtained a BSc degree from the University of the Free State, majoring in Zoology and Botany and an Honours degree in Zoology. She recently completed an MSc thesis (cum laude) entitiled "The post-cranial skeleton of the Early Triassic non-mammalian cynodont Galesaurus planiceps: implications for biology and lifestyle". As Collections Manager she is responsible for the Geology and Palaeontology Collections at the Museum. This includes curating the collection, managing and maintaining the database and handling enquiries by scientists and members of the public.
Sekhomotso Gubuza email@example.com
Sekhomotso joined the National Museum in 2017 to manage the Osteohistology Laboratory in the Karoo Palaeontology Department. Her tasks include producing bone histology thin sections of extant and extinct vertebrates, storing the thin sections and maintaining the digital databases. She also digitally renders each section so that we have an image database of each slide. Sekho is responsible for running the laboratory, training students on the equipment and trouble shooting.
Senior Fossil Preparator
Nthaopa worked at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at the University of the Witwatersrand for five years before he joined the Palaeontology Department of the Museum in 2006. He prepares both small and larger fossil specimens, and assists with casting. He is also an experienced fossil finder in the field and was responsible for finding an almost complete, fully articulated Erythrosuchus africanus skeleton in 2008.
Senior Fossil Preparator
Sharon has been a member of the Palaeontology Department of the Museum since 2006. She prepares small and large fossils and occasionally assists with field work.
Sina began working for the Museum in 2011. She mostly prepares small intricate fossils.
William became a member of the Palaeontology Department in 2011. He prepares larger fossils, does most of the casting for the department and assists with field work.
Thabang began working for the Museum in 2013. He prepares many large skeletons and assists with casting and field work.
Organismal Response to Severe Environmental Perturbation
This research programme focuses on the response of extinct vertebrates - from the microscopic to macroscopic level - during severe environmental shifts that occur during mass extinctions. One of the greatest challenges in understanding the nature of past ecosystems is being able to accurately assess the biology and ecology of the extinct taxa living in these systems. This is particularly the case when attempting to understand how the life histories of extinct vertebrates varied through time, particularly during periods of extreme environmental fluctuation, such as those demonstrated by mass extinctions. Mass extinctions present an excellent opportunity for testing theories about differential survival in the face of dramatic environmental perturbation. The most catastrophic mass extinction event in Phanerozoic history is the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction (PTME), which occurred approximately 252 million years ago. The South African Karoo Basin preserves the most complete terrestrial record of the Permo-Triassic sequence facilitating detailed studies on the effect of the extinction on vertebrate biology and ecology. Using the PTME as a model, a variety of techniques, including biostratigraphy, geochemistry, morphology and osteohistology, are used to test hypotheses regarding differential species survival.
Osteohistology of Fossil Vertebrates
Life histories can be assessed based on the bone microanatomy and histology of vertebrates because these are known to reflect growth rates and patterns, ontogenetic stages, reproductive maturity, biomechanical adaptations, lifestyles and potentially the effects of significant environmental perturbation on growth. The osteohistology (bone microstructure) of fossil animals is thus one of the most powerful avenues for investigating the biology and ecology of extinct vertebrates. This research programme involves the study of extinct vertebrate life histories and aims to assess life history variation through time, partiularly during times of environmental stress, such as those caused by mass extinctions, and to identify osteohistological characteristics that may aid in survival.
Osteohistology of Living Vertebrates
The aim of this programme is to develop a comparative modern vertebrate osteohistology database that can be used to study the osteohistology of extinct vertebrates. Various South African vertebrates have been collected for the purpose of developing this database. Research on this collection is currently focused on fossorial (burrowing) and semi-fossorial mammals. Numerous studies have shown that lifestyle preference affects the bone microstructure of an animal. Although much research has been done on the osteohistology of terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates, relatively little has been done on fossorial and semi-fossorial animals.
A variety of projects in vertebrate palaeontology (including palaeohistology) at the postgraduate (BScHons, MSc and PhD) and postdoctoral levels are available. Enquiries should be made to Dr Jennifer Botha (Head of the Karoo Palaeontology Department) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Lucas Legendre (2016 - 2018)
Bone microstructure of fossorial modern mammals.
This study aimed to investigate the fossorial activity of modern mammals, using histological thin sections of limb bones to evaluate biomechanical and structural constraints associated with burrowing. This study focused on the South African aardvark, Orycteropus afer to assess the influence of fossorial behaviour on the osteohistology of this animal.
Brandon Stuart MSc candidate (2020-)
The postcranial skeleton of Therocephalia (Synapsida: Therapsida) from the Karoo Basin of South Africa.
This study aims to describe the postcranial skeletons of various South Africa therocephalian species from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. It is an expansion of his honours thesis, which focused on the postcranial description of the therocephalian Moschorhinus kitchingi.
Bailey Weiss MSc candidate (2019-)
Bone microanatomy of Anomodontia Owen, 1859 (Synapsida: Therapsida) from the Karoo Basin of South Africa.
This study aims to study the bone microanatomy, i.e. the internal structure and organization of bone, of various dicynodont therapsid taxa from South Africa in order to assess what biomechanical and ecological signals can be obtained from bone microanatomy.
Kimberley Chapelle PhD (2018-2019)
The ontogeny and taxonomy of the basal sauropodomorph dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus (Owen, 1854).
This study examined the taxonomy and osteohistology of the Early Jurassic sauropodomorph dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus from the upper Elliot Formation, South Africa. She revised the cranial description and assessed an ontogenetic series of various postcranial elements to examine whether there was a postural shift during the growth of this taxon.
Luke Norton PhD (2013-2020)
Tooth replacement patterns in the Eutheriodontia from South Africa.
This study assessed the tooth replacement of selected therocephalian and cynodont therapsids using micro-CT scanning in order to determine tooth replacement patterns and rates within derived members of the Therapsida.
Alexander Botha MSc (2015-2017)
Comparative bone histology of Stigmochelys pardalis (Leopard tortoise), with specific reference to ontogeny and biomechanics.
This study examined the limb bone histology and bone microanatomy of the Leopard tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis from South Africa. He studied an ontogenetic series of various limb elements allowing him to describe inter-elemental variation as well as the changes in growth pattern through ontogeny.
Adam Huttenlocker PhD (2009-2013)
Osteohistology and skeletal growth in Permo-Triassic therocephalian therapsids (Amniota: Synapsida).
This study analysed the growth patterns in therocephalian and cynodont therapsids using osteohistological and skeletochronological methods, and re-assessed the phylogenetic relationships amongst Therocephalia. Changes in body size and growth rates were examined in order to shed light on therocephalian evolution with special emphasis on taxa associated with the Permo-Triassic mass extinction.
Botha, J. and A. K. Huttenlocker. 2021. Non-mammalian synapsids; pp. 550-563 in V. de Buffrénil, A. de Ricqlès, L. Zylberberg and K. Padian (eds.), Comparative skeletal histology and paleohistology, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, 824 pp. PDF 2.8MB
Chapelle, K. E. J., J. Botha and J. N. Choiniere. 2021. Extreme growth plasticity in the early branching sauropodomorph Massospondylus carinatus. Biology Letters 17: 20200843. DOI: doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2020.0843. PDF 416 MB
Viglietti, P. A., R. B. J. Benson, R. M. H. Smith, J. Botha, C. Kammerer, Z. Skosan, N. Mtalana, S. Mtungata, D. Wolvaardt, M. Strong, G. Skinner, P. October, K. D. Angielczyk. 2021. Evidence from South Africa for a protracted end-Permian extinction on land. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 118(17): e2017045118. DOI: view link. PDF on request.
Norton, L. A., F. Abdala, B. S. Rubidge and J. Botha. 2020. Tooth replacement patterns in the Early Triassic epicynodont Galesaurus planiceps (Therapsida, Cynodontia). PLOS One 15(12) e0243985. DOI: doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243985. PDF 6.2 MB.
Botha, J. 2020. The paleobiology and paleoecology of South African Lystrosaurus. PeerJ 8:e10408. DOI: doi.org/10.7717/peerj.10408. PDF 7.9 MB.
Botha, J. and R. M. H. Smith. 2020. Biostratigraphy of the Lystrosaurus declivis Assemblage Zone in R. M. H. Smith (ed.), Karoo biostratigraphy. Special Issue. South African Journal of Geology 123(2): 207-216. PDF 3.7 MB.
Smith, R. M. H., Rubidge, B. S., Day, M. O. and J. Botha. 2020. Introduction to the tetrapod biozonation of the Karoo Supergroup in R. M. H. Smith (ed.), Karoo biostratigraphy. Special Issue. South African Journal of Geology 123(2): 131-140. PDF 4.1 MB.
Botha, J., A. K. Huttenlocker, R. M. H. Smith, R. Prevec, P. Viglietti and S. P. Modesto. 2020. New geochemical and palaeontological data from the Permian-Triassic boundary in the South African Karoo Basin test the synchronicity of terrestrial and marine extinctions. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 540: 109467. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109467. PDF 8.7 MB. | SUPP tables. | SUPP info.
Mayer, E. L., A. Hubbe, J. Botha-Brink, A. M. Ribeiro, X. S. Villagran and M. de Almeida Rizzutto. 2020. Diagenetic changes on bone histology of Quaternary mammals from a tropical cave deposit in southeastern Brazil. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 537: 109372. PDF 3.7 MB.
Botha, A. E. and J. Botha. 2019. Ontogenetic and inter-elemental osteohistological variability in the leopard tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis. PeerJ 7e:8030 DOI 10.7717/peerj.8030. PDf 2.5 MB.
Chapelle, K. E. J., P. M. Barrett, J. Botha and J. N. Choiniere. 2019. Ngwevu intloko: a new early sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic Elliot Formation of South Africa and comments on cranial ontogeny in Massospondylus carinatus. PeerJ. DOI:10.7717/peerj.7240. PDF 5 MB
Barrett, P. M., K. E. J. Chapelle, C. K. Staunton, J. Botha and J. Choiniere. 2019. Postcranial osteology of the neotype specimen of Massospondylus carinatus Owen, 1854 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the upper Elliot Formation of South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana 53: 114-178. https://hdl.handle.net/10539/26829. | PDF 8 MB.
Veiga, F. H., J. Botha-Brink, A. Maria Ribeiro, J. Ferigolo and M. Bento Soares. 2019. Osteohistology of the Late Triassic silesaurid Sacisaurus agudoensis from southern Brazil and implications for growth in early dinosaurs. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 91(2): e20180643. DOI 10.1590/0001-3765201920180643. PDF 2.7 MB.
McPhee, B. R. Benson, J. Botha-Brink, E. Bordy and J. Choiniere. 2018. A giant dinosaur from the earliest Jurassic of South Africa and the transition to quadrupedality in early sauropodomorphs. Current Biology 28: 1-9. DOI: view link.
Legendre, L. J. and J. Botha-Brink. 2018. Digging the compromise: the functional link between bone microstructure and fossoriality in the aardvark (Orycteropus afer). PeerJ 6:e5216. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5216. PDF 4 MB
Botha-Brink, J., M. B. Soares and A. G. Martinelli. 2018. Osteohistology of Late Triassic prozostrodontian cynodonts from Brazil. PeerJ 6:e5029. DOI https://doi.org.10.7717/peerj.5029. PDF 2 MB.
Butler, E., F. Abdala andJ. Botha-Brink. 2018. Postcranial anatomy of the Early Triassic non-mammaliaform cynodont Galesaurus planiceps (Owen, 1859) from the Karoo Basin, South Africa. Papers in Palaeontology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1220. PDF on request
Roopnarine, P. D., K. A. Angielczyk, S. Olroyd, S. J. Nesbitt, J. Botha-Brink, B. R. Peecook, M. O. Day and R. M. H. Smith. 2018. Comparative ecological dynamics of Permian-Triassic communities from the Karoo, Luangwa and Ruhuhu basins of southern Africa; pp. 254-272 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and climate evolution in the Triassic rift basin of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6, Supplement). DOI: view link. PDF on request
Veiga, F. H., J. Botha-Brink and M. B. Soares. 2018. Osteohistology of the non-mammaliaform traversodontids Protuberum cabralense and Exaeretodon riograndensis from southern Brazil. Historial Biology DOI: view link. PDF on request
Botha-Brink, J. 2017. Burrowing in Lystrosaurus: preadaptation to a postextinction environment? Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(5): e1365080. DOI: view link. PDF on request
Codron, J., J. Botha-Brink, D. Codron, A. Huttenlocker and K. Angielczyk. 2017. Predator prey interactions among Permo-Triassic terrestrial vertebrates as a deterministic factor influencing faunal collapse and turnover. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30(1):40-54. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12983. PDF on request
Legendre, L. J., G. Guénard, J. Botha-Brink and J. Cubo. 2016. Palaeohistological evidence for ancestral endothermy in archosaurs. Systematic Biology DOI: 10.1093/sysbio/syw033. PDF on request
Lyson, T. R., B. S. Rubidge, T. M. Scheyer, K. de Queiroz, E. R. Schachner, R. M. H. Smith and J. Botha-Brink. 2016. Fossorial origin of the turtle shell. Current Biology 26:1-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.020. PDF on request
Botha-Brink, J., D. Codron, A. K. Huttenlocker, K. D. Angielczyk and M. Ruta. 2016. Breeding young as a survival strategy during Earth's greatest mass extinction. Scientific Reports. 6: 24053. PDF 1.3 MB. PDF SUPP 4.7 MB. Excel SUPP: view link.
Ecker, M., J. Botha-Brink, J. A. Lee-Thorp and L. K. Horwitz. 2015. Ostrich eggshell as a source of palaeoenvironmental information in the arid interior of South Africa; pp. 95-111 in J. Runge (ed.), Changing climates, ecosystems and environments within arid southern Africa and adjoining regions: Palaeoecology of Africa 33. CRC Press, Florence, Kentucky, 228 pp. PDF on request
Lyson, T. R., T. M. Scheyer, E. Schachner, J. Botha-Brink, G. S. Bever, K. de Queiroz,C. Farmer, B. S. Rubidge and J. A. Gauthier. 2014. Fossorial ancestry in the origin of turtles? Insights into the origin of the turtle lung ventilation mechanism and their shell. Nature Communications 5:5211 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6211. PDF on request
Gower, D. J., R. J. Butler, A. G. Sennikov, J. Hancox and J. Botha-Brink. 2014. A new species of Garjainia ochev, 1958 (Diapsida: Archosauriformes: Erythrosuchidae) from the Early Triassic of South Africa. PLoS ONE 9: 11: e111154. PDF 1.8 MB
Smith, R. M. H. and J. Botha-Brink. 2014. Sedimentological and taphonomic evidence for drought-induced die-offs during the Permo-Triassic mass extinction in the main Karoo Basin, South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 312: 40-53. PDF 2.9 MB SUPP 155 KB
Huttenlocker, A. K. and J Botha-Brink. 2014. Growth patterns and the evolution of bone microstructure in permo-Triassic therocephalians (Amniota, Therapsida) of South Africa. PeerJ 2:e325; DOI 10.7717/peerj.325. PDF 1.1 MB SUPP 243 KB
Botha-Brink, J., A. K. Huttenlocker, and S. P. Modesto. 2014. Vertebrate Paleontology of Nooitgedacht 68: A Lystrosaurus maccaigi-rich Permo-Triassic boundary locality in South Africa in pp. 289-304. C. F. Kammerer, K. D. Angielczyk, and J. Fröbisch (eds.), The Early Evolutionary History of the Synapsida. Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands. PDF 2.2 MB
MacDougall, M. J., S. P. Modesto and J Botha-Brink. 2013. The postcranial skeleton of the Early Triassic parareptile Sauropareion anoplus, with a discussion of possible life history. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 58(4).
Ruta, M., J. Botha-Brink, S. A. Mitchell and M. J. Benton. 2013. The radiation of cynodonts and the ground plan of mammalian morphological diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280. view link. PDF 1.2 MB SUPP Methods & Results SUPP files S1-S12
Huttenlocker, A. K. and J. Botha-Brink. 2013. Body size and growth patterns in the therocephalian Moschorhinus kitchingi (Therapsida: Eutheriodontia) before and after the end-Permian extinction in South Africa. Paleobiology 39: 253-277. PDF on request
Botha-Brink, J. and R. M. H. Smith. 2012. Palaeobiology of Triassic procolophonids inferred from bone microstructure. Comptes Rendus Palevol 11: 419-433. PDF 3.5 MB
Botha-Brink, J., F. Abdala and A. Chinsamy. 2012. Paleobiology and radiation of Permo-Jurassic non-mammaliaform cynodonts; pp. 223-246 in A. Chinsamy-Turan (ed.), The biology of non-mammalian therapsids: insights from bone microstructure. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 360 pp.
Ray, S., J. Botha-Brink, and A. Chinsamy. 2012. Dicynodont growth dynamics and lifestyle adaptations; pp. 121-146 in A. Chinsamy-Turan (ed.), The biology of non-mammalian therapsids: insights from bone microstructure. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 360 pp.
Smith, R. M. H. and J. Botha-Brink. 2011. Morphology and composition of bone-bearing coprolites from the Late Permian Beaufort Group, Karoo Basin, South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 312: 40-53. PDF on request
Botha-Brink, J and R. M. H. Smith. 2011. Osteohistology of the Triassic archosauromorphs Prolacerta, Proterosuchus, Erythrosuchus and Euparkeria from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31(6): 1238-1254. PDF 1.68 MB
Botha-Brink, J. and S. P. Modesto. 2011. A new specimen of the therocephalian synapsid Olivierosuchus parringtoni from the Lower Triassic South African Karoo Basin. Palaeontology 54: 591-606. PDF 1.3 MB
Botha-Brink, J. and K. D. Angielczyk. 2010. Do extraordinarily high growth rates in Permo-Triassic dicynodonts (Therapsida, Anomodontia) explain their success before and after the end-Permian extinction? Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 160: 341-365 PDF on request
Botha-Brink, J. 2010. Comments on the proposed precedence of Procynosuchus Broom, 1937 (Therapsida, Cynodontia) over Cyrbasiodon Broom, 1931 and Parathrinaxodon Parrington, 1936.Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 67(1): 95. PDF 46 KB
Modesto, S. P., D. M. Scott, J. Botha-Brink and R. R. Reisz. 2010. A new and unusual procolophonid parareptile from the Lower Triassic Katberg Formation of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(3): 715-723. PDF 3.3Mb
Modesto, S. P. and J. Botha-Brink. 2010. A burrow cast with Lystrosaurus skeletal remains from the Lower Triassic of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 25: 274-281.PDF 2.7Mb
Modesto, S. P. and J. Botha-Brink. 2010. Problems of correlation of South African and South American tetrapod faunas across the Permian-Triassic boundary. Journal of African Earth Sciences. 52: 242-248.PDF 619 KB
Botha-Brink, J. and S. P. Modesto. 2009. Anatomy and relationships of the Middle Permian varanopid Heleosaurus scholtzi based on a social aggregation from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 29(2): 389-400. PDF 2.5Mb
Modesto, S. and J. Botha-Brink. 2008. A new archosauriform reptile from the Lower Triassic Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28(3): 914-917 PDF 445 KB
Botha-Brink, J. and F. Abdala. 2008. A new cynodont record from the Tropidostoma Assemblage Zone of the Beaufort Group: implications for the early diversity of cynodonts in South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana 43: 1-6.PDF 688 KB
Botha-Brink, J. and S. Modesto. 2007. A mixed-age classed ‘pelycosaur’ aggregation from South Africa: earliest evidence of parental care in amniotes? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B274: 2829-2834.PDF 548 KB
Botha, J. and K. Angielczyk. 2007. An integrative approach to distinguishing the Late Permian dicynodont species Oudenodon bainii and Tropidostoma microtrema (Therapsida: Anomodontia). Palaeontology. 50(5): 1175-1209.PDF 1.4Mb
Botha, J. and T. Gaudin. 2007. An early Pliocene pangolin (Mammalia: Pholidota) from Langebaanweg, South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 27(2): 484-491.PDF 721 KB
Botha, J., S. Modesto and R. Smith. 2007. A specimen of the procolophonoid reptile Sauropareionanoplus from the Katberg Formation of South Africa. South African Journal of Science. 103: 54-56.PDF 605 KB
Botha, J. and R. Smith. 2007. Lystrosaurus species composition across the Permo-Triassic boundary of South Africa. Lethaia. 40(2): 125-137.PDF 421 KB
Botha, J., F. Abdala and R. Smith. 2007. The oldest cynodont: new clues on the origin and diversification of Cynodontia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 149: 477-492.PDF 430 KB
Botha, J. and R. Smith. 2006. Rapid vertebrate recuperation in the Karoo Basin of South Africa following the end-Permian extinction. Journal of African Earth Sciences 45 (4-5): 502-514.PDF 993 KB
Smith, R. and J. Botha. 2005. The recovery of terrestrial vertebrate diversity in the South African Karoo Basin after the End-Permian extinction. Comptes Rendus Palevol 4: 555-568.PDF 635 KB
Botha, J., J. Lee-Thorp and A. Chinsamy. 2005. The palaeoecology of the non-mammalian cynodonts Diademodon and Cynognathus from the Karoo Basin of South Africa, using stable light isotope analysis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 223: 303-316.PDF 234 KB
Botha, J. and A. Chinsamy. 2005. Growth patterns of Thrinaxodon, a non-mammalian cynodont from the Early Triassic of South Africa. Palaeontology 48: 385-394.PDF 542 KB
Ward, P. D., J. Botha, R. Buick, M. O. de Kock, D. H. Erwin, G. Garrison, J. Kirschvink and R. Smith. 2005. Abrupt and gradual extinction among land vertebrates in South Africa: Evidence against a K/P-type impact extinction at the end of the Permian. Science 307: 709-713.PDF 371 KB
Botha, J. and A. Chinsamy. 2004. Growth and lifestyle adaptations of the Triassic non-mammalian cynodont Trirachodon. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 49(4): 619-627.PDF 613 KB
Ray, S., J. Botha and A. Chinsamy. 2004. Bone histology and growth patterns of some non-mammalian therapsids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24(3): 634-648.PDF 849 KB
Botha, J., J. Lee-Thorp and M. Sponheimer. 2004. An examination of Triassic cynodont tooth enamel chemistry using Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy. Calcified Tissue International 74(2): 162-169.PDF 155 KB
Botha, J. 2003. Biological aspects of the Permian dicynodont Oudenodon (Therapsida, Dicynodontia), deduced from bone histology and cross-sectional geometry. Palaeontologia Africana 39: 37-44.PDF 3.4Mb
Botha, J. and A. Chinsamy. 2000. Growth patterns deduced from the bone histology of the cynodonts Diademodon and Cynognathus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20 (4): 705-711.PDF 595 Kb
Botha, 2020. Our ancient ancestors the Therapsida. Culna https://nationalmuseumpublications.co.za/our-ancient-ancestors-the-therapsida/
Botha, 2020. The biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Culna https://nationalmuseumpublications.co.za/the-biggest-mass-extinction-in-earths-history/
Botha, 2020. New analysis sheds important light on an ancient mass extinction event. The Conversation.
Botha-Brink, J. 2016. How looking 250 million years into the past could save modern species. The Conversation.
Botha-Brink, J. 2011. A Diamond in the Rough. The Life Story of an Extraordinary Man. Culna 66: 32-33.
Botha-Brink, J. 2007. Survivor of the most catastrophic extinction. The Voyage of the Planet pp. 8-17.
Botha, J. 2006. A long time ago and not so far away – an ancient world in crisis? Culna 61 pp. 61-62.
Botha, J. 2004. Bizarre creatures from an ancient past. Getaway Magazine pp. 74-78.
The fossil collection predates the founding of the National Museum in 1877. The present vertebrate collection contains more than 3600 fossil specimens and includes unique material such as the tritheledontid cynodont Diarthrognathus, virtually all the material of the primitive dicynodont, Eodicynodon, the only known skull and skeleton of the early prosauropod dinosaur, Melanorosaurus, and a complete, fully articulated skeleton of the amphibian Uranocentrodon and the archosauriform Erythrosuchus. We also have more than 3000 invertebrate specimens, mainly consisting of Cretaceous ammonites, 126 specimens of fossil plants, which were collected mostly during the 1920s and 1950s, as well as more than 2000 mineral specimens, which include several meteorites. The fossil display, which is open to the public, consists mainly of animals that represent early relatives of mammals, namely the Therapsida, and are integral to understanding the origin of mammals.
The Karoo vertebrate collection comprises mostly therapsid and dinosaur fossils. The collection includes approximately:
126 plant fossils comprising mostly fossilized trees from Senekal
3100 invertebrate fossils comprising mostly ammonites, but also some trace fossils
2259 minerals, comprising mostly semi-precious stones
Phonodus dutoitorum Modesto, Scott, Botha-Brink and Reisz 2010
Proterosuchus fergusi Broom 1903 (Chasmatosaurus alexanderi Hoffman 1965)
Pedeticosaurus leviseuri van Hoepen 1915
Gryponyx africanus Haughton 1924
Melanorosaurus readi Haughton 1924 (Euskelosaurus browni Huxley 1866)
Eodicynodon oelofseni Rubidge 1990
Patranomodon nyaphulii Rubidge and Hopson 1990
Colobodectes cluveri Modesto, Rubidge and Welman 2003
Australosyodon nyaphuli Rubidge 1994
Oudenodon margaritae van Hoepen 1934
Compsodon helmoedi van Hoepen 1934
Lanthanostegus mohoii Modesto, Rubidge and Welman 2003
Langbergia modisei Abdala, Neveling and Welman 2006
Diarthrognathus broomi Crompton 1958 (holotype & paratype)
Our fossil preparators are fully trained in the casting of fossil vertebrates and traces. A list of available casts and models is given below:
Casts of fossils for sale at the National Museum
|1||Glossopteris||Permian||30 cm, several leaves on brown background|
|2||Dicroidium||Triassic||21 cm, single leaf on grey background|
|3||Deiradoceras ammonite||Cretaceous||26 cm, complete shell|
|4||Semionotus (small)||Triassic||15 cm, fish in sandstone|
|5||Semionotus (large)||Triassic||20 cm, fish in sandstone|
|6||Lydekkerina||Triassic||12 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|7||Lydekkerina||Triassic||30 cm, articulated skeleton|
|8||Mesosaurus||Permian||28 cm, skeleton in grey-brown rock|
|9||Nanoparia||Permian||18 cm, skull with palate|
|10||Procolophon||Triassic||12 cm, skull and lower jaw|
|11||Pedeticosaurus||Triassic||31 cm, skull and skeleton|
|12||Proterosuchus||Triassic||119 cm, skull and skeleton|
|13||Proterosuchus||Triassic||31 cm, skull|
|14||Euskelosuarus||Triassic||70 cm, redbrown femur|
|15||Eodicynodon||Permian||6 cm, skull and lower jaw|
|16||Eodicynodon||Permian||30 cm, skull and skeleton with lower jaw|
|17||Oudenodon||Permian||32 cm, skull and palate|
|18||Lystrosaurus||Triassic||12 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|19||Lemurosaurus||Permian||15 cm, skull with lower jaw|
|20||Theriognathus||Permian||19 cm, skull with palate|
|21||Moschorhinus||Triassic||23 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|22||Scaloposaurus||Triassic||4 cm, skull|
|23||Olivierosuchus||Triassic||20 cm, skull and partial skeleton|
|24||Procynosuchus||Permian||10 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|25||Procynosuchus||Permian||42 cm, skull and skeleton|
|26||Thrinaxodon||Triassic||6 cm, skull and lower jaw|
|27||Thrinaxodon||Triassic||11 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|28||Thrinaxodon||Triassic||41 cm, skull and skeleton|
|29||Galesaurus||Triassic||9 cm, skull with palate and lower jaw|
|30||Cynognathus||Triassic||26 cm, skull with palate, no teeth, lower jaw|
|31||Diademodon||Triassic||30 cm, skull with lower jaw|
Models of fossils for sale at the National Museum
(approx. 25 cm)
The Department contains a fully functional bone histology laboratory for the thin sectioning and analysis of fossil bone microstructure.
The acceptance of material on loan implies that the following conditions have been accepted:
Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa Biennial Meeting 2018
July 4th to July 6th 2018
SAVE THE DATE!!
It is our pleasure to invite you to the 20th Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa Biennial Meeting to be hosted by the National Museum, Bloemfontein from 4 July to 6 July 2018.
Please see the second circular here (download here).
Please see the third circular here (download here).
PSSA 2018 Registration Forms are now available (download here).
Please find the PSSA programme and abstracts here.
Do not print as you will receive a printed volume at the conference.
Please see details about the pre-conference workshop (download here)
Notices are also up on the PSSA website and Facebook, and will continue to be distributed via membership lists. Please forward the circular to your networks.Any queries can be directed to the Program Chair, Jennifer Botha-Brink at email@example.com
Please check this site regularly for updates.
We look forward to seeing you here!
Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink
Karoo Palaeontology Department