Southern Africa is differentiated from other centres of aridity in Africa by the presence of an extended island of elevated, essentially treeless habitat in the central interior, known as the Highveld and the Karoo. This area coincides botanically with the Nama-Karoo and the Grassland Biomes. The large geographic extent of this habitat is unique to southern Africa, since it has no exact equivalent in modern-day east or north Africa. This uniqueness is reflected in the large herbivores of the central interior, the grazers and mixed feeders adapted to permanently available open habitat, which defines the endemic faunal character of the subregion. This contribution presents some of the faunal evidence for the appearance of permanently open habitat in central southern Africa, a process that formed part of a longer-term trend of faunal adaptation to aridification and global cooling that was initiated within the last 1 Ma, in a time known as the Cornelian Land Mammal Age (LMA). A secondary and overlapping theme deals with the appearance of lakes and wetlands on a subregional scale during the Florisian LMA, which lasted from c. 0.6 Ma to the end of the Pleistocene/early Holocene. The end of the Florisian LMA coincided with the regional extinction of wetland faunas in the interior and with the extinction of specialised grazing ungulates over the entire subregion, leading into the semi-arid conditions seen in the larger part of modern-day southern Africa.
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