South African fossils show ancient beast’s epic demise.


At the end of the Permian Period, global warming caused by Siberian volcanism resulted in the worst mass extinction ever. It wiped out up to 90% of all species.

This extinction occurred over a long period of time, with species dying one by one as conditions deteriorated. Scientists announced on Monday that South African fossils reveal the story of an apex predator that migrated halfway around the world over multiple generations in a desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to survive.

A farm in central South Africa discovered new Inostrancevia fossils, a tiger-sized, saber-toothed mammal ancestors.

The fossils indicate that Inostrancevia traveled 7,000 miles (12,000 km) across Earth’s ancient supercontinent Pangaea during the time when the continents were united. Inostrancevia took over the ecological niche left by the disappearance of four South African top predators.

However, it did not survive there for long,” said paleontologist Christian Kammerer of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the study’s lead author. Inostrancevia and its close relatives perished during “the Great Dying.”

So, they have no living descendants, but they are a member of a larger group called synapsids, which includes mammals as living representatives,” Kammerer explained.

Inostrancevia and other protomammals were reptile-like mammals. It was about the size of a Siberian tiger, but with an elongated skull and massive, blade-like canine teeth.

“I suspect these animals primarily killed prey with their saber-like canine fangs and either carved out chunks of meat with their serrated incisors or, if it was small enough, swallowed it whole,” Kammerer said.

Predators required the most food

Like most protomammals, Inostrancevia had sprawled forelimbs and mostly erect hind limbs. It also lacked mammalian facial musculature and lacked the ability to produce milk.

“Whether or not these animals were furry remains an open question,” Kammerer said.

The dinosaurs of the Triassic Period appeared after a million years of mass extinction. For millennia, massive volcanism released lava flows across Eurasia, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Global warming, oxygen depletion, ocean acidification, and desertification resulted.

Top predators required the most food and space, putting them at risk of extinction.

They mature slowly and have a small number of offspring. “Top predators are disproportionately affected when ecosystems are disrupted and prey supplies or habitat are limited,” said Kammerer.

Researchers see parallels between the Permian crisis and climate change caused by humans.

“As a result of the global warming climate crisis, these species had to adapt or die. This is clear from evidence of their brief survival despite these conditions, but they eventually vanished one by one. According to Pia Viglietti, a Field Museum paleontologist and study co-author.

“Unlike our Permian forefathers,” Viglietti explained, “we actually have the ability to do something to prevent this type of ecosystem crisis from occurring again.”


Related Posts

Illuminating the Promise of Africa.

Receive captivating stories direct to your inbox that reveal the cultures, innovations, and changemakers shaping the continent.