# Euparkeria africanus

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Reconstructed forest scene with Euparkeria africana trying to catch dragonfly. [Illustration by Tobie Beale ©]

Diagrammatic side view of Euparkeria africana showing skeleton and body outline. [Illustration by Cedric Hunter, © Iziko Museums]

Skull of one of the Euparkeria fossils collected by Mr Brown. [Photo Roger Smith, Iziko ©]

Euparkeria capensis was a small armour-plated reptile about 1.2 meters long. It walked on four legs most of the time, although it probably sprinted on its hind legs to capture small prey such as insects, spiders, scorpions and possibly fish. This proto-archosaur exhibits several skeletal modifications that place it on the evolutionary path leading to dinosaurs.

Euparkeria displays many archosaur-like characteristics, but is not considered to be a true archosaur because it has the following primitive reptilian characters:

  • Retains teeth on the palate

  • Retains bony intercentra between the vertebrae


Discovery of Euparkeria

The Euparkeria fossils were discovered in 1907 by Mr Gibb, a quarryman who was collecting sandstone blocks for foundations for a new building in Aliwal North, Eastern Cape, South Africa. He did not take much interest in the fossils and if it were not for the efforts of an eccentric Englishman and retired local schoolmaster named Alfred (“Gogga”) Brown, these specimens would not have been rescued. Luckily Mr Brown was an avid fossil collector who kept meticulous notes of all his finds. Following his handwritten directions we were able to relocate the stone quarry but unfortunately the bonebed has been completely excavated and there are no fossils left there.


Alfred (“Gogga”) Brown


Page from one of Mr Brown’s handwritten catalogues. [Photo Roger Smith, Iziko ©]

Site near Aliwal North, where the Euparkeria fossils were found. [Photo Roger Smith, Iziko ©]

Remains of quarry where Euparkeria fossils were found.  [Photo Roger Smith, Iziko ©]


  • Botha-Brink J, Smith RMH. 2011. Osteohistology of the Triassic archosauromorphs Prolacerta, Proterosuchus, Euparkeria, and Erythrosuchus from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31(6): 1238-1254. DOI:10.1080/02724634.2011.621797
  • Broom R. 1913. On the South-African Pseudosuchian Euparkeria and Allied Genera. Journal of Zoology 83(3): 619-633. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1913.tb06148.x
  • Ewer RF 1965. The anatomy of the thecodont reptile Euparkeria capensis Broom. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 248(751): 379-435.
  • Gower DJ, Weber E. 1998. The braincase of Euparkeria, and the evolutionary relationships of birds and crocodilians. Biological Reviews 73(4): 367-411. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.1998.tb00177.x
  • Haughton SH. 1922. On the reptilian genera Euparkeria Broom, and Mesosuchus Watson. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. 10(1): 81-88. DOI:10.1080/00359192209519270
  • Senter P. 2003. New information on cranial and dental features of the Triassic archosauriform reptile Euparkeria capensis. Palaeontology 46(3): 613-621. DOI: 10.1111/1475-4983.00311

Text by Roger Smith

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