Taxonomy of the proterosuchid archosauriforms (Diapsida: Archosauromorpha) from the earliest Triassic of South Africa, and implications for the early archosauriform radiation

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  • Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München


Proterosuchidae is one of the first clades of Archosauriformes (archosaurs and closely related species) to appear in the fossil record, with the richest sample of the group coming from the Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone (earliest Triassic) of South Africa. Four nominal proterosuchid species were described from South Africa during the twentieth century (Proterosuchus fergusi, Chasmatosaurus vanhoepeni, Chasmatosaurus alexanderi and Elaphrosuchus rubidgei), but interpretations of their taxonomy have been widely disparate. The most recent taxonomic revision concluded that P. fergusi is the only valid species and that the other nominal species are junior subjective synonyms of this taxon. This proposal was based on the interpretation that anatomical differences between the nominal species could be explained as a result of ontogenetic changes and/or post-mortem deformation. The recent discoveries of multiple new South African proterosuchid specimens provide an impetus to revisit their taxonomy. Based upon a comprehensive re-examination of all known specimens, as well as examination of other proterosuchid taxa in collections worldwide, we conclude that the holotype of Proterosuchus fergusi is undiagnostic. As a result, we propose a neotype (RC 846) for the species. 'Chasmatosaurus vanhoepeni' and 'Elaphrosuchus rubidgei' are considered subjective junior synonyms of P. fergusi. 'Chasmatosaurus' alexanderi is considered a valid species, for which we propose the new combination P. alexanderi comb. nov. A third species, P. goweri sp. nov., is erected on the basis of a single specimen (NMQR 880). All three species recognized here are taxonomically distinct from a previously described archosauriform maxilla from the lower Lystrosaurus AZ. As a result, we recognize a minimum of four archosauriform species following the Permo-Triassic mass extinction in South Africa. Our results suggest a greater species richness of earliest Triassic archosauriforms than previously appreciated, but that archosauriform morphological disparity remained low and did not expand until the late Early Triassic - early Mid-Triassic.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-170
Number of pages30
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Proterosuchus, Archosauriformes, Early Triassic, Karoo Supergroup, Proterosuchidae