Dr Thalassa Matthews, palaeontologist, Iziko Museums of South Africa and Dr Deano Stynder, palaeontologist and archaeologist, Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town

Intensive analysis of rats, mice, shrews, mole-rats and frogs at the 5.1 million-year-old West Coast Fossil Park site has provided unique information on the west coast palaeoenvironment and climate. During this period the incredibly rich fossil beds were being laid down, numerous modern genera were becoming established, and several ‘old’ lineages were heading for extinction. The site also preserves the remains of a unique large animal community that combined newly evolved grazing specialists with ancient browsers, and African with Eurasian taxa. Also notable is the diversity observed within several large-bodied mammalian families. Fossil analyses have revealed three giraffe taxa, three elephant taxa and four hyaena taxa. This oddity is rarely evident in modern environments and raises questions about the ecological mechanisms that facilitated this level of co-existence.



1. Small fauna  Dr Thalassa Matthews

2. Large fauna Dr Deano Stynder


Recommended reading

 Hendey, Q. B.  1982.  Langebaanweg:  A record of past life.  Cape Town: South African Museum.

 Matthews, T., Measey, G.J.  Roberts, D. L.  2016. Implications of summer breeding frogs from Langebaanweg: regional climate   evolution at 5.1 Mya. South African Journal of Science. Volume 112(9/10). DOI:

 Matthews, T., Parkington, J.E., and Denys C.         2007.  Community evolution of Neogene micromammals from Langebaanweg ‘E’   Quarry and other west coast fossil sites, south-western Cape, South Africa.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.   245:332-352.

 Stynder, D. D., Ungar, P. S., Scott, J. R. and Blaine W. S. 2012. A Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of the Mio-Pliocene hyaenids   from Langebaanweg, South Africa. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57: 485-496.



Date: Thursday 9–Friday 10 January 
Time: 3.00 pm
COURSE FEES: Full R236 Staff & Students R118
Venue: LT3 Kramer Law Building UCT