Vetusodon elikhulu gen. et sp. nov.Â
Fernando Abdala,Â Leandro C. Gaetano.Â Roger M. H. Smith &Â Bruce S. Rubidge (2019)
A new large cynodont from the Late Permian (Lopingian) of the South African Karoo Basin and its phylogenetic significance.
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, zlz004 (advance online publication)
The Karoo Basin of South Africa has the best global record of Lopingian (Late Permian) non-mammaliaform cynodonts, currently represented by five species. We describe Vetusodon elikhulu gen. et sp. nov., documented by four specimens from the Daptocephalus Assemblage Zone. With a basal skull length of ~18 cm, it is the largest Lopingian cynodont and is also larger than Induan representatives of the group. Vetusodon elikhulu has a cranial morphology that departs notably from that previously documented for Permo-Triassic cynodonts. It features a short and extremely wide snout, resembling that of the contemporaneous therocephalian Moschorhinus, and has large incisors and canines that contrast with the small unicusped postcanines, suggesting a more important role of the anterior dentition for feeding. The dentary is extremely long and robust, with the posterior margin located closer to the craniomandibular joint than in other Lopingian and Induan cynodonts (e.g. Thrinaxodon). The secondary palate morphology of V. elikhulu is unique, being short and incomplete and with the posterior portion of the maxilla partly covering the vomer. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that V. elikhulu is the sister taxon of Eucynodontia and thus the most derived of the Lopingian to Induan cynodonts yet discovered.