Samstag, 15. November 2008

Triassic critters: Kazacharthrans

Kazacharthrans - or Katzen, as we call them (jokingly) in German - are an endemic group of small branchiopod crustaceans which were named after the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, where the type locality is situated. All yet known occurrences are restricted to the Middle Triassic to Lower Jurassic of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, the northwestern Chinese Province Xinjiang, and Kyrgyzstan: the Madygen Formation).

The closest recent relatives of kazacharthrans and an anatomically quite similar group are the tadpole shrimps (Notostraca), including the 'living fossil' species Triops cancriformis, which has not changed since its earliest occurrence in the Triassic.

Kazacharthran head shield from Madygen; width: 1.2 cm.

The most complete body fossils from Madygen consist of a relatively large cephalothoracic shield (see pic) and a segmented tail with a small and spiny shield at the end (telson). Madygen finds show the head shield often considerably deformed. As the animals were subject to moulting, the abundancy of kazachthran body fossils is raised by the preservation of exuviae.

The riddle of kazachrathran radiation. Kazacharthrans are regarded as a Triassic offspring from the lineage of the otherwise conservative group of notostracans which have persisted since the Carboniferous without larger anatomical changes. As the Kazacharthra develop a relatively high diversity (14 genera, >20 species described) in a narrow spatial and temporal window, the crucial questions is, what their speciality (and fate) was.

Sebastian Voigt (who is in charge of the Madygen project here in Freiberg) is a paleoichnologist and also working on kazacharthran trace fossils and their ethological and ecological implications (see ref below), using the ichnia of recent triopsids for comparison (the reminiscence of a childhood dream to have those lovely trackmakers in your aquarium). Understanding the palaeoenvironment and fossil association of kazachathran body and trace fossils in the Madygen Fm will hopefully help to understand the peculiarity of "Katzen".


Chen P., K.G. McKennzie & Zhou, H.(1996): A further research into Late Triassic Kazacharthra from Xinjiang Uigur autonomous region, NW China. - Acta Palaeontologica Sinica 35(3): 272-301.

Preliminary results on Madygen kazacharthrans can be found in the abstract volume of the 2007 fall meeting of the German Palaeontological Society (pdf, 33MB):
Voigt, S.(2007): Kazachartran body and trace fossils from shallow lake deposits of the Madygen Formation (Middle to Upper Triassic, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia). In: O. Elicki & J.W. Schneider (eds): Fossile Ökosysteme. - Wissenschaftliche Mitteilungen 36, Institut für Geologie, TU Freiberg, p. 160

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