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African Natural History

On-line version ISSN 2305-7963
Print version ISSN 1816-8396

Afr. nat. history (Online) vol.5  Cape Town Jan. 2009


A new Cretaceous lungfish (Dipnoi: Ceratodontidae) from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania



Michael D. GottfriedI; Nancy J. StevensII; Eric M. RobertsIII; Patrick M. O'ConnorIV; Remigius ChamiV

IGeological Sciences and Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, U.S.A. E-mail:
IIDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, U.S.A. E-mail:
IIIDepartment of Physical Sciences, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah 84720, U.S.A. E-mail:
IVDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, U.S.A. E-mail:
VTanzania Division of Antiquities, Box 2280, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania




'Ceratodontid' lungfishes have a wide Gondwanan distribution during the Mesozoic, and are well-known from a variety of Cretaceous sites in northern and western Africa. Despite this relatively broad occurrence, significant gaps remain in our knowledge of Mesozoic African lungfish palaeodiversity and palaeogeography, particularly from subequatorial Africa. Ongoing field research in the Cretaceous Galula Formation (Red Sandstone Group), which outcrops in the Rukwa Rift Basin (a segment of the greater East Africa Rift System) of southwestern Tanzania, has led to the discovery of a diverse vertebrate fauna, including a well-preserved lungfish toothplate. This specimen is described here as a new taxon, Lupaceratodus useviaensis gen. et sp. nov., on the basis of its unique combination of morphological features relative to other 'ceratodontids.' L. useviaensis represents the first Cretaceous record of a 'ceratodontid' lungfish from Tanzania, and more broadly from the southwestern portion of the East African Rift System. The new Tanzanian form adds further diversity and anew datum to the evolutionary history of lungfishes in Africa, and it suggests possible regional differentiation between the Cretaceous fishes of East Africa and the better-known fish faunas of the period from northern and western Africa, perhaps related to the Cretaceous establishment of the Trans-Sahara Seaway.

Keywords: Lupaceratodus, lungfish, Ceratodontidae, Cretaceous, Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania.


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We thank our collaborators in the Department of Geology at the University of Dar es Salaam, particularly E. Mbede, S. Ngasala, and our late friend and colleague S. Kapilima; the Tanzanian Division of Antiquities (especially D. Kamamba and C. Msuya); and the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology. We also thank E. Johansen for logistical assistance, and C.S. Churcher for helpful comments. The paper was improved by comments from B. Grandstaff, L. Cavin, and A. Cione. Z. Johanson and M. Richter at the Natural History Museum (London) provided access to the NHM collections to examine lungfish material. Finally, we thank the following funding sources: the National Science Foundation (EAR-0617561) of the U.S.A., National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University, and the Ohio University Office ofResearch and Sponsored Programs and College of Osteopathic Medicine.



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Received 27 July 2009
Accepted 14 September 2009

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