Dicynodont therapsids were cosmopolitan members of Middle and Late Permian terrestrial ecosystems. Despite occurring in nearly all places where tetrapod fossils of these ages are found, it is unclear whether any individual dicynodont species ever achieved a Pangaean distribution, with populations located in both Gondwana and Laurasia. Diictodon feliceps (Owen, 1876) is perhaps the best candidate for a species with such a broad distribution, but this depends on whether D. tienshanensis (Sun, 1973) from the Junggur Basin of China is a valid species. We use qualitative morphological characters, as well as linear measurement- and landmark-based morphometric techniques, to demonstrate that IVPP V.3260 (the type and only known specimen of D. tienshanensis) falls well within the range of variation displayed by D. feliceps, implying that D. tienshanensis is not a valid species. The occurrence of D. feliceps in China poses a biogeographic puzzle, since this species is otherwise known only from southern Africa. We predict that D. feliceps will be discovered in areas between southern Africa and China. However, if its absence persists in the face of continued exploration and collecting efforts, it may imply that a dispersal route and/or intervening populations of D. feliceps existed in areas in which an Upper Permian terrestrial fossil record was not preserved. Finally, if dicynodonts were adapted to exploiting components of the Gondwanan flora, the presence of D. feliceps in Gondwana and Laurasia indicates that such trophic interactions were not an insurmountable barrier to their dispersal.
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Vol. 28 • No. 3