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Permian tetrapods from the Sahara show climate-controlled endemism in Pangaea


New fossils from the Upper Permian Moradi Formation of northern Niger1,2,3,4,5,6 provide an insight into the faunas that inhabited low-latitude, xeric environments near the end of the Palaeozoic era ( 251 million years ago). We describe here two new temnospondyl amphibians, the cochleosaurid Nigerpeton ricqlesi gen. et sp. nov. and the stem edopoid Saharastega moradiensis gen. et sp. nov., as relicts of Carboniferous lineages that diverged 40–90 million years earlier7,8,9. Coupled with a scarcity of therapsids, the new finds suggest that faunas from the poorly sampled xeric belt that straddled the Equator during the Permian period10,11,12 differed markedly from well-sampled faunas that dominated tropical-to-temperate zones to the north and south13,14,15. Our results show that long-standing theories of Late Permian faunal homogeneity are probably oversimplified as the result of uneven latitudinal sampling.

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Figure 1: New edopoid temnospondyls from the Moradi Formation.
Figure 2: Phylogenetic position of Nigerpeton ricqlesi and Saharastega moradiensis among basal temnospondyl amphibians based on maximum parsimony analysis.
Figure 3: Palaeogeography12 and palaeoclimatology10,11 of the Late Permian showing the geographical distribution of tetrapod faunas7–9,13–24.

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We thank A. Beck, D. Blackburn, J. Conrad, A. Dindine, E. Duneman, B. Gado, T. Lyman, G. Lyon, R. Sadlier and G. Wilson for assistance in the field; A. Crean, E. Love, V. Heisey and J. Groenke for fossil preparation; and S. Spilkevitz for help with Fig. 3. We thank H. Salissou of the Ministère des Enseignements Secondaire et Supérieur, de la Recherche et de la Technologie for permission to conduct fieldwork. We acknowledge the National Geographic Society for support.

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Correspondence to Christian A. Sidor.

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Supplementary Data

This file contains the list of characters used in the cladistic analysis of temnospondyl relationships, and the corresponding character-taxon data matrix. (DOC 31 kb)

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Sidor, C., O'Keefe, F., Damiani, R. et al. Permian tetrapods from the Sahara show climate-controlled endemism in Pangaea. Nature 434, 886–889 (2005).

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