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Reading rocks

Watch: Fossil and the environment of their formation: interview with a geologist-palaeontologist

I asked Dr Roger Smith, geologist and palaeontologist, about his 30 year career working on fossils in the Karoo basin of South Africa. Using biostratigraphy (a branch of geology looking at fossils to date rock strata) and taphonomy (how organisms become fossils), he has documented what happened in this area in the late to End Permian. Rock layers reveal how the environment changed dramatically – effectively creating a huge drought event in the area. What were once floodplains became dry landscapes, and along with that, the extinction of many plants and animals.

The Karoo Basin is the world’s largest and richest collecting ground for therapsids (also popularly known as the mammal-like reptiles), which is a diverse group among whom are the cynodonts, the ancestors of mammals.

You can read more about Roger’s research at the Iziko Museum below.

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Extinctions: Past and Present

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