Not only is Inverdoorn a place of sanctuary for its wildlife but is also located on the edge of one of the most historically significant sites in the history of the planet. The Karoo Basin holds some of the earliest fossil evidence for life on earth. It is almost impossible not to mention South Africa in the context of the origin of species. This includes the world’s oldest plant life, an 80 million-year-old heritage of mammals and even charts the rise of human life over a 4 million year period. The geology of the Karoo Basin spans from the Late Carbineforous (300 million years ago) to the Early Jurassic (180 million years ago). The fossils found in the region show clearly the evolutionary paths of mammals, dinosaurs, and even tortoises. The basin itself was once covered entirely by giant glaciers before becoming an inland sea.
A Fossil Wonderland
Originally a part of the supercontinent, known as Gondwana, it drifted slowly North allowing the ice sheets to melt and form a massive inland sea that would be the home of the earliest reptiles known as Mesosaurs. This is also where the reserve gets its saltmarshes from, and you should see plenty of them on your safari! This period overlaps a coming together of the African and Paleo-Pacific plates formed a range that was higher than even the Himalayas and the remains of which now make up the Cape Folded Belt of mountains that you see around you at the reserve.
It was Andrew Geddes Bain who uncovered the first remains of reptiles in the Karoo. These early reptiles named Therapsids we now know are the very first descendants of mammals. Thousands upon thousands of fossilised vertebrates have been discovered here and some of the foremost palaeontologists in history have brought their spades and picks to investigate the area.
What It Can Teach Us
Because of the Karoo’s unique geological history of the past 180 million years, it has become a living lab for the study of biodiversity and the effects of extinction events its biology. With our current situation of being on the cusp of a sixth extinction, the information in these ancient lands could prove vital. The Karoo contains evidence of two of the five events, namely, the Permo-Triassic extinction which saw the destruction of 70 percent of land-dwelling creatures and 90 percent of marine creatures. The reason for the event is has caused much debate but essentially is the shifting from a wet to dry floodplain environment.
It is also quite incredible to think that every single animal, plant and insect you see at the reserve have actually evolved right where they (and hopefully, you) stand, and have come full-circle to live on the land that created most of the land animals and plant species on earth. When you come to Inverdoorn, you can almost feel the age of the place and who knows you could be standing on the remains of the very first dinosaurs!