Permian Aged Fossils – Important Discoveries made at Dam Site

The last period of the Palaeozoic era was the Permian, it ended with the largest mass extinction event in recorded time, the greatest die off of species for 500 million years or more when at least 90% of all land and marine organisms became extinct.  Scientists are always excited when new discoveries of fossils dating from the end of the Permian are announced, they can help them to piece together the causes and the consequences of this mass extinction event.

A series of fossiliferous beds dating from the end of the Permian (250 million years ago) have been found during the construction of a new dam, in Bedford, in the Free State (South Africa).  The country of South Africa is one of the most important places in the world for finds of late Permian fossils (Karoo Basin), in a statement sent out to the press it has been stated that “scientists working at the new Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme have mad exciting discoveries of the remains of animals that walked the Earth around 250 million years ago.”

A local resident of the area discovered the first set of teeth of an ancient animal during the construction work in November.  A palaeontologist, Dr Gideon Groenewald, was then appointed as a consultant to review any other finds that may turn up as a result of the excavation work.

About 19 tons of rock was blasted and removed from the construction area for further examination.  Material collected included bone and teeth of plant-eating animals and predators, all dating from the end of the Permian.

Commenting on the new discoveries, Dr. Groenewald said:

“The discoveries are of unique importance for science and help in the understanding of the pre-history of the rocks that underlie the eastern Free State.”

The fossil material will be taken to the National Museum in Bloemfontein for further studies, although it is hoped that some of the fossils will be returned to the construction site for the dam, to feature in a planned visitor centre.

The scientists responsible for the study of these new finds are hoping that data extracted will provide more insight into the Permian mass extinction event.

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