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A complete skull of Thrinaxodon from Bethulie, Freestate. Thrinaxodon was a therapsid on the main lineage towards mammals and thought to have lived in underground burrows

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CT scan of Xenopus laevies

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Fossil impressions of brachiopods and crinoid stems from the Bokkeveld Group 375 to 390 million years old

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Fossilised footprints of a large four-legged mammal-like reptile that lived in the Fraserburg area of the Northern Cape some 260 million year ago

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Fossilised marine invertebrates - brachiopods, bivalves, ammonoids and belemnites dating back to the Jurassic between 190 and 140 million years ago

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Galesaurus planiceps, a member of the cynodont group of mammal-like-reptiles and an early ancestor of all mammals

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Fossil preparation

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SEM image of the microfossil of a planktonic foraminifer Globorotalia inflata from the Cape Basin

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SEM image of the Microfossil of a planktonic foraminifer Globorotalia truncatulinoides from the Cape Basin

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Sharpeiceras and Douvilleiceras ammonites

Palaeontology Collections

Palaeontology is the study of the preserved remains or traces of plants, animals and organisms that died thousands to millions of years ago. These preserved remains are called fossils and are found in rocks and sediments. Fossils allow us to understand how the Earth has changed over time and how animals evolve to what they are today. South Africa has a rich diversity of fossils spanning to more than 3 billion years ago. The Iziko Natural History Collections at the South African Museum have three broad categories of palaeontology collections, namely the Invertebrate, Karoo and Cenozoic Palaeontology collections.

The invertebrate palaeontology collections mainly consist of the remains and traces of animals or organisms without a backbone. These collections contain fossils from the Nama Group rocks (more than 500 million years old), the fossiliferous Bokkeveld Group (375 to 390 million years old), the Cretaceous (older than 65 million years) rocks of the eastern part of South Africa and from microfossils that are approximately 2 million years old.

The Karoo palaeontology collections mainly contain vertebrate fossils from the Karoo Basin which is in the interior of South Africa. These fossil collections document an important extinction event during the Permian-Triassic (approximately 252 million years ago) and the rich history of therapsid (mammal-like reptile) evolution which later gave rise to mammals.

The Cenozoic palaeontology collections contain mainly vertebrate fossils from the Cenozoic (less than 65 million years old). The fossils have been collected and studied by scientists from Cenozoic-aged rock strata along the western part of South Africa. Many of the fossils are of mammals and other animals that are now extinct which provide evidence for a changing environment and landscape during the Cenozoic in the west of South Africa.