The terrestrial vertebrate fauna underwent a substantial change in composition between the lower and middle Permian. The lower Permian fauna was characterized by diverse and abundant amphibians and pelycosaurian-grade synapsids. During the middle Permian, a therapsid-dominated fauna, containing a diverse array of parareptiles and a considerably reduced richness of amphibians, replaced this. However, it is debated whether the transition is a genuine event, accompanied by a mass extinction, or whether it is merely an artefact of the shift in sampling from the palaeoequatorial latitudes to the palaeotemperate latitudes. Here we use an up-to-date biostratigraphy and incorporate recent discoveries to thoroughly review the Permian tetrapod fossil record. We suggest that the faunal transition represents a genuine event; the lower Permian temperate faunas are more similar to lower Permian equatorial faunas than middle Permian temperate faunas. The transition was not consistent across latitudes; the turnover occurred more rapidly in Russia, but was delayed in North America. The argument that the mass extinction is an artefact of a latitudinal biodiversity gradient and a shift in sampling localities is rejected: sampling correction demonstrates an inverse latitudinal biodiversity gradient was prevalent during the Permian, with peak diversity in the temperate latitudes.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3741413.
- Received February 4, 2017.
- Accepted March 3, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
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