Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Ichnology, Palaeoecology
Fields of study
The Early Jurassic record is a pivotal phase in terrestrial vertebrate evolution. During this time, dinosaurs emerged as the preeminent terrestrial organisms and continued their dominance for ~135 Ma. In southern Africa, this dynamic period in early dinosaur evolution is best recorded in the red beds of the Elliot Formation and the overlying sandstone-dominated Clarens Formation. Although vertebrate tracks are abundant in these formations, only recently have they been studied in greater detail and with modern methods. This fossil track abundance is surprising considering that the Clarens Formation is still regarded as overall body fossil-poor, especially in comparison to the underlying fossiliferous Elliot Formation. Moreover, the palaeoecological model of the Clarens remains outdated and is largely based on sedimentological interpretations, with little reference to the fossil composition.
The purpose of this research, therefore, is to update and refine the current view of the Clarens ecosystem, with specific reference to the palaeontological composition of this unit. Ultimately, this research will provide a more complete view of the Early Jurassic desert ecosystem of southwestern Gondwana.