STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 May 2011

Diictodon News

Not really news so much as articles out of the past. The Proceedings of the Royal Society B are home to some of the best journal entries in all of science and they have not let us down today. Article 1 is all about the earliest evidence of burrowing animals, particularly in cynodonts. Naturally Diictodon is granted a nod here despite being a dicynodont and not a cynodont. The article mainly focuses on another animal but utilizes what is known of Diictodon burrowing behavior to compare evidence for the other animal's burrowing behaviors in support of the idea that it was the earliest burrowing cynodont.

Article 2 from the Proceedings is about Diictodon and, in particular, how it is considered to be the oldest example of sexual dimorphism in known species. The article describes Diictodon and attributes the sexual dimorphism to the possession or absence of tusks on either side of its keratinous beaks. The body characteristics of the tusked, male, and untusked, female, individuals is described as is the population trend between the two variations of skeleton.

Article 3 comes to us from Koedoe, an African open source journal of environmentalism and biology. The article discusses the growth of teeth in Diictodon, which is found heavily in Africa and Asia, and uses evidence in the teeth as growth rings are used in trees. The increments of growth have been illustrated using microscopic images of cross sectioned teeth from Diictodon fossils and the overall conclusion is that there is no certainty what each line represents in the teeth (years, months, days even). However, it is an interesting topic of conversation.

30 May 2011

Diictodon behavior on screen

Well this says a lot about appearance of Diictodon and its behaviors as considered by current science. Walking With Monsters also shows Diictodon habits, but in that instance it shows the animals in a natural environment rather than a hospital. The contrast between nature and what these animals would most likely do to current human buildings and creations is interesting food for thought however. I'd still love to have one as a pet if they existed. This is the same video I used for Gorgonops, however, pay close attention to the group mentality of Diictodon in the documentary. It is much more mammalian than other animals in the mammal like reptile world are portrayed in the series. It possesses, according to the technical advisers of the show at least, a very meerkat/gopher like warning system for the community though the animals are not at all community dwellers like the mammals. They live near to one another but they don't have common burrows. If this is indeed the true nature of the animals than perhaps it was just one step away from the mammals which act so very similar in many ways.

29 May 2011

Kids and Diictodon

 Kids will love this animal regardless of where they see it. One place they can read some info on it would be Wikipedia, as there is not Dinos for Kids fact files for this group of little guys. To turn up the cute factor you're going to have to either watch Primeval or Walking with Monsters, or spend a day coloring pictures like the two on this page. There are also some toys, though you have to admit this looks like a salamander and not a cute Diictodon. It's too bad there aren't any plush toys. But you live with what you've got honestly. Maybe Evolvems will make a Diictodon someday.

28 May 2011

Diictodon the Digger

Diictodon as a genera possesses seven species with D. feliceps being the type species. This leads to a wide variety of interpretations of the many different species despite their similar skeletal structures. That's not to say that the differences are not warranted, as the skeletal structures which create the need for different species to be named are obviously large enough to require more than one species. Over all, as in other animals with multiple species in their genus, most of the models and interpretations look very similar.

The general body shape is that of a slender and elongated trunk and abdomen, a short neck, a very short tail, a beak-like premaxilla and mandible/dentary, with two small tusks arranged on either side of the jaw pointing downward. Somewhat binocular vision was likely with the eyes facing mostly forward but sunken into the skull enough that a small ridge of bone forms the rear (the post occipital bone) of the ocular cavity of the canine like skull. Rounding out this design are small legs held under the body, mammal-like, in back and gently splayed, lizard fashion, in front that end in five fingered feet both fore and aft which don't automatically look, but are perceived to have been, excellent at digging.
As for that, Diictodon have been found fossilized in collapsed burrow structures leading paleontologists to surmise that the dachshund size creatures were at home underground away from the giant mouths of animals like the gorgonopsids that prowled the earth topside. Their large eyes could certainly have been very useful in the darkness
underground to catch what light filtered through their tunnel entrances and their eyes also tell us there was more of meerkat than mole about their way of life; they must have also come out on the surface quite regularly and utilized those big baby blues or surely evolution would have created more of a mole-like situation for the Diictodons with small eyes and high sensation feelers.

27 May 2011

A Barrel of Cute

As promised, the last week before our own little Permian Extinction is going to end on a note that, despite how cute it may not have been in real life, is going to be so cute your face will explode! At least according to the latest computer models of this genus. Again, their are a ton of little species in here, but the genus we'll look at this week is that of Diictodon.

Diictodon ("two weasel toothed") was tiny, by the time's standards, and was about the same size as your average dachshund in length and height. Like a dachshund the Diictodon was an underground loving animal, however, unlike the badger-dog Diictodon lived underground and was an herbivore (whereas a dachshund typically only goes underground to bring out rats, moles, and -yes- badgers).

Diictodon was a Dicynodont (Cynodonts would go on to evolve the first mammalian species whereas Dicynodonts would founder against the competition from early Prosauropods in the Triassic). Dicynodont means "two dog toothed" (Cynodont meaning just "dog teeth") and related to the propensity of genera of Dicynodonts possessing two large tusks in addition to the other canine like teeth of the mouth.

26 May 2011

The other popular culture entries

First we mentioned the two shows where Gorgonops' genus makes a big entry; Primeval and Walking with Monsters. Then I mentioned that there really aren't toys associated with Gorgonops. So what does that really leave us with to find for Gorgonops? Strangely, a lot of interesting things. One thing that I loved is this sketch by Ricardo Ramirez that shows the differences between the two animals depicted on those shows in their skull structure. It's very well done and very well detailed.
WwM             and           Primeval
The second thing is a book that I'm definitely going to have to read now. Sometimes I feel silly buying and reading books aimed at 10-15 year olds, but I'll make an exception for this one. It's called The Last Synapsid and features a story involving two children, a Diictodon and a gorgonopsid. In Colorado. In the present day. I don't see how I could not ask myself to read this book honestly. The gorgonopsid may not be the main character, but it's a vital plot mechanism and that makes it important to the story, obviously. If someone reads it before I do, don't ruin it for me.

The last thing is video games. There's always a video game creator or home modifier that will put their favorite animals, creature, spaceship into a game and save a video of it. This week, someone has done that on Spore, as we've seen so many other times in the past. Spore is a great game for people to create their evolutionary fantasy world, which works greatly for us as amateur paleontologists because we can see detailed models of animals that are not always readily available to us anywhere else. So thank you Spore, and thank you to Rampardo5 for creating this video of his Gorgonops in Spore.

25 May 2011

Discovery day

Richard Owen
For the first time in a long time we have someone new to talk about. We've probably briefly described the life of Richard Owen (I try to keep tabs on exactly who and when we discuss everything but, just to show an example of how strange things have gotten I'll scan in just the list of animals discussed since I started this after I get done here). Richard Owen first described the type species of G. torvus in 1876. Owen was the man who coined the term dinosaur for those who don't remember. Gorgonpsids as a family were then described in 1890 by another English naturalist named Richard Lydekker (British paleontology was "Richard" heavy early on ;-]).
Richard Lydekker

Lydekker was a Cambridge studied London native who wrote a myriad of books on the biology of the then faraway worlds of India, Australia, and New Guinea, amongst others. He spent much if not most of his adult life in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Australasia studying and describing vertebrates and defining biogeographical conditions of life in the areas. His extension into paleontology, he was one of the initial finders, namers, and describers of Titanosaurus indicus also, is what eventually led to his work on the gorgonopsid family.

Harry Seeley (not a Richard)

The third person involved with describing gorgonopsids was Harry Seeley. In 1895 Seeley tied the group more tightly together using the genus Gorgonops as his template. Seeley was a well versed British paleontologist by this time and was one of the chief proponents of separation of dinosaurs into Saurischian and Ornitischian. He also wrote a book in which he tied pterosaurs and birds as close relatives which was very popular in its day. Given the title Dragons of the Air that is understandable. It's just an awesome title.

Retro to Tuesday

Blogspot wasn't working well for me yesterday, so here's yesterday's entry:

As everyone well knows, I find a lot of articles on newsday about skulls and teeth. Partly this is due to the extensive studying of these areas of paleontology, partly it's because that's what gets uploaded online, and partly because skull anatomy and dentition are pretty interesting subjects when discussing evolution and the purpose a species or genus served in the world in which it lived. To that end, I have found three articles, though not specifically about a Gorgonops species, that are about the skull and dentition of gorgonopsids and one that focuses more on the maxilla and its evolution in mammals.

The first article is on functional morphology of the skull (which we can agree by past articles is one of my favorite paleontology subjects). It is found on Oxford's page ( and may not last, so you may want to download the PDF and read it later; it's over 80 pages. Written by T.S. Kemp, then of Cambridge, in 1968 (he's a professor of zoology at Oxford now) this paper covers the entire skull above and below and describes in great detail the skull, brain, and jaw structures of gorgonopsids. It's the kind of thing I love to read.

The second ( and third ( articles are on tooth structure in mammal-like reptiles and the evolution of mammalian jaw, respectively. After reading all three of these you will probably be able to label your own skull if you needed to! Many more entries exist for the Gorgonops genus and the Gorgonopsid family, but these three are all I'm going to highlight for today.

23 May 2011

Gorgonops the movie star

Inostrancevia, a European Gorgonpsid, is a more likely candidate than an actual Gorgonops for this first video here because Gorgonops did not actually live near Scutosaurus who has been found in the Perm region of Russia, near Siberia whereas Gorgonops species are typically found in the southern reaches of Africa. Here's the video all the same:

Next I feel it important to share a huge pop culture reference, at least it is if you watch BBC ever, because without the first episode of the show Primeval Gorgonops wouldn't have really hit the limelight very well. Granted it is involved with Walking with monsters, but not as many people will tune in for documentaries as they will for anything on in prime time no matter what the show is. The animal appears twice in the show, in that first episode and in another episode later on. Here are clips from both episodes:
(the Gorgonops suplex is brilliantly executed by the animators actually).

Also, there was the brief wonder of Walking with Monsters which came out after Dinosaurs and is a great deal more complex and scientific in its own ways. These include looking inside the animals at their adaptations, though we have to admit as scientists that it fails at times just like Dinosaurs did. Regardless, Gorgonops was a major character in the final episode of that series, as seen here:
(This is the start of the episode, parts 8 and 9 finish it for those that don't own it, you know I do!)

22 May 2011

Slow Day

Gorgonopsids don't really have family appeal. It also isn't an enormous seller on its image, which we can all agree is a bit scary in general I think. All in all, it's just not popular. I'm sad to say it, but I have almost nothing for family fun day. I didn't even find a blank coloring sheet, that's how unfriendly the Gorgonopsids are to children! So this doesn't feel like a wasted day, watch this tribute made for Gorgonops.

21 May 2011


The numerous species of Gorgonops should look somewhat alike, but probably not entirely alike. However, images on the internet, despite the species, have a tendency to look quite similar overall. I think of it in the way I think of dogs. All canines share similar features, but not all canines are identical because there are so many different species. It stands to reason that Gorgonopsids should also differ from species to species more than they do in the available art. At any rate, let's start the art show. First, here's a look at one of the questionable species, G. kaiseri:
Compare the above with the two versions that have appeared on television and are just labeled Gorgonops (probably taken from the type species G. torvus):
From Primeval
Walking With Monsters
Both are very similar and thanks to the BBC's Primeval we can get a general respect for the size of the creatures compared to our present day lives. The type species was about 10 feet long and thought to be between 500 and 1000 pounds. So this looks about as accurate as we're going to get without comparing a skeleton in a museum, which is, coincidentally, about as easy as finding a picture of a ghost in a snowstorm. They just do not seem to exist on the internet and this could be because these skeletons are not displayed or because they are not photographed often.

Some of the more alternative views of Gorgonopsids give us an interesting view into their imagined features and facial expressions. I picked three I especially like and will label why I like them in the captions that follow them:
I love the whiskers here, showing its movement toward mammalian characteristics and the shape and color of the eye.
This is a beautifully sculpted in action piece by a talented Canadian artist (
This one I love simply because it has trended away from the long sharp muzzle and opted instead for a more lizard like appearance and less of a mammalian appearance. It's an interesting deviation from all the other views we've looked at.

20 May 2011

My decision

I wasn't sure what route to go this week. I know how we're going to end the Permian animal month, and it's a secret (a disturbingly cute secret). However, for this week I looked at Permian reptiles and I looked at the Gorgonopsids. After much deliberation I decided that greyhound shaped wolf headed and tiger mouthed Gorgonops was the way to go.

Gorgonops is a genus, as we so often encounter in our studies, rather than an individual species. Species include G. torvus, G. longifrons, G. whaitsi, and three more questionable species that may actually belong to a different genus. Characteristically the genus has a large, long, slender body (Greyhound), a large somewhat rectangular head with a long muzzle (like a wolf), and large predatory teeth (like any predator of our age really). Without lips its face would look much like a crocodile's in the mouth because of the size of the teeth, but if it had had lips it would look a lot like Marmaduke and any other canine you can imagine with a longer muzzle (except those big sabers at the front of course). Of course, this muzzle was extremely long.

19 May 2011

Little to say

Eryops hasn't really made a move into popular culture. Name one amphibian outside of Kermit the Frog that has and you'll see why I blame it on the amphibians getting a bum rap for being soft and slimy. You can buy a replica skull for about $500 if you'd like though.

18 May 2011

Out of the mud

Through much searching and meandering in the online scientific world I finally found the answer for today. Eryops was discovered, described, and named by E.D. Cope in 1877. Cope being one of the larger names in American paleontology we have discussed his life many times before. Eryops was discovered in the Admiral Formation, Lower Permian era, in Archer County, Texas. The Admiral Formation is a formation of rock consisting of mainly mudstone and limestone with some mixed in sandstone. The formation ranges from 200 to 240 feet thick in some areas. Fossils have been found in New Mexico and as far away as the East Coast of America as well, however. Eryops wasn't much of a globe trotter, but it was fairly widespread for a rather large amphibian.

17 May 2011

Papers on Amphibians

In the pursuit of knowledge of life amphibians such as Eryops , being early amphibians specifically, have quite the story to tell. Eryops and others of its general generation (Hynerpeton, Icthyostega, Perdepes etc. within about a 300 million year era) are the first successful lineages between fish and everything else terrestrial, in the vertebral world. They paved the way for more amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and even mammals. We have a lot to be thankful for in terms of our current place on the evolutionary ladder.

That being said, it is important to understand how these transitional forms of life, especially Eryops since it is her/her week, fits into life. Thus, our first article "The Fish-Tetrapod Transition". It is a very detailed look at how fossils tell the story of this transition using both old and new data. It is fairly current (2009) so we can look on this as a contemporary viewpoint into the past, which is always helpful.

For an older view of Eryops we turn to an article from 1934 titled "THE BRAIN CASE AND ENDOCRANIAL CAST OF ERYOPS MEGACEPHALUS". This paper looked at the very interesting cranial structures found in Eryops and specifically, of course, at its brain case structure. Given that the head was one of the most important defining features of Eryops this article tells quite a bit about that dome and how it worked to protect the brain.

16 May 2011

Eryops' movie roles

The plain fact is that there are no starring roles. There are barely background roles. Poor amphibians, you know? Like the (incorrect) mentions we hear about Edaphosaurus being Dimetrodon's snack all the time. The few mentions of Eryops in any type of film are usually as a Dimetrodon snack or "and this animal existed too, on to reptiles." Amphibians are given a bum rap most of the time and unfortunately Eryops suffers from this condition in the same way that many of its brother amphibians do. In fact, this short clip below glosses over Permian amphibians and mentions Eryops, but only shows it being eaten. The voice is a little annoying, but watch it anyhow.

At 4:20 of this annoyingly dance music themed video on transitional fossils there is a showcase of Eryops fossils and where they sit in the timeline of life, vaguely at leas. Mute and watch!

15 May 2011

Little to share

Eryops is one of those not so family friendly extinct species because it does not appear as often as other animals and dinosaurs in family and kid related media. So, today, all there is to share in the usual vein of interest is the kids fact page.

14 May 2011

Eryops in pictures

Having your place in the ecosystem as the go between predator of the day put Eryops in an interesting position ecologically speaking. It was not an apex predator in either the water or terrestrially. However, it could have eaten fish, small insects, smaller amphibians, lizards, and proto-mammals with ease not to forget the young of synapsids that it came into contact with if it was so lucky. Its sharp teeth could have been used for any of those purposes and, given enough problem solving skill it may have even been able to crack open mollusks for all we know. Since, unlike the Edaphosaurus-Dimetrodon connection that is always made but is impossible due to their existing in separate periods, Eryops had to deal with Dimetrodon on land many images have been created and skeletons positioned that show the two animals near each other
 or facing off against one another.

Certainly, being a water predator as much as it was a terrestrial predator many of the scenes depicting both animals near one another were probably much more like the following image. Dimetrodon would certainly not have always troubled itself to go down to the water to feed considering the wealth of the land during this time. When it did go to the water to drink it probably wouldn't have bothered an amphibian sitting on the banks like this all that often either.
Eryops isn't depicted in the water often, and probably with good reason, as there must have been some fish large enough in the swamps it lived in to terrorize it in the same way that Dimetrodon was free to do so on land at the time. However, some depictions of Eryops on the shoreline and in the water hunting fish do indeed exist such as the two below.
©Karen Carr
 Being an amphibian Eryops must have had amphibious traits aside from hunting fish in the water and animals on the land, soft wet skin, and having water-borne soft eggs. One such trait may be presented in the fossil below which is thought to be a representation of Eryops as a tadpole, assuming that Eryops had a frog-like life cycle that saw Eryops go from having gills to having lungs amongst other things which would fit in perfectly as it is indeed an amphibian. Pelosaurus laticeps is what this fossil is named, but it would be interesting if it was just an immature Eryops megacephalus.

13 May 2011

Now Friday's: Eryops

Copyright 2011 Alain Beneteau

The focus of this week is Eryops, an Early Permian amphibian. Combining the best of what its fish ancestors and the amphibian evolutionary ladder created in it, Eryops megacephalus was a successful coastal hunter on inland waterways. It had primitive ears for airborne sound formed from now unused portions of the ancestral fish jawbone (which helps to explain how our ears got connected to our mouths in the first place) and sturdy, but stubby, legs and a strong backbone to support its weight out of water. Its full name means "drawn out face big head" in Greek so a lot of focus is on that big flat head.That big flat head contained small teeth designed for snatch up and chomping down on fish and other riverbank cuisine. This was the main amphibious predator of its day. It probably only fell prey to rather large fish and sharks in the water and to Dimetrodon on land. This will be an interesting change from dinosaurs and synapsids!

Backdated to Thursday 12 May 2011

Blogger was down Thursday and Friday morning, so two today. The first one is from yesterday and is about Edaphosaurus:

Well Blogger is down right now so today I'll just be posting on here. The thing with Edaphosaurus is that it's run in popular culture is as a sidenote to Dimetrodon typically. However, one place that Edaphosaurus was the highlight and Dimetrodon never appeared was in an animated kids show that came out in 1989, the year after the original Land Before Time. That's important because the drawings are similar and it's always nice to know who borrowed from whom. The show was called Dink, the Little Dinosaur and the Edaphosaurus was named Shyler. Again it was a time of mistaken cohabitation, as with many kids shows, but that's okay. I'm sad I don't really remember it though.

11 May 2011


Discovered in the late 19th century by Edward Drinker Cope, Edaphosaurus has, like many paleontological finds, undergone many perceived behavioral changes and natural niche assignments since its discovery. Initially the teeth of the animal led researchers to believe in a main diet of mollusks and other such aquatic creatures. Over time, though, many have noticed very herbivorous traits in the animal such as cutting teeth at the front of its mouth designed for slicing off vegetation. The overall body mechanics of the Edaphosaurus indicate slower speed of movements much more consistent with modern large herbivores as well.

The sail on Edaphosaurus' back was different from that of Dimetrodon in many ways also, which helped to distinguish the two genera. These included the size of the vertebral spines as well as the length of the sail from front to back. If you recall one of the first descriptions of Edaphosaurus we mentioned was that the sail continues up until the skull attaches to the neck whereas on Dimetrodon the sail ends at the point where the neck and body meet or right above the shoulders. These spines on Edaphosaurus also bear cross bars and are heavier than a Dimetrodon's, which adds to the inhibited speed of Edaphosaurus and may have potentially made the spine itself more delicate and cumbersome; which adds to the argument for herbivorous diet.

Edaphosaurus has been found all over the Southwest United States but has also been found in areas such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. As one of the first large tetrapod herbivores it is very clear that it was successful all over the globe during its time.

10 May 2011

Article Day

Articles exist for Edaphosaurus, but there are not many that can be downloaded or opened fully online. One that can be opened and read is this one about the skull of a specific species of Edaphosaurus. Cranial anatomy is always fairly interesting, therefore this is a fairly interesting read. Read it, leave some comments, we can discuss it.

09 May 2011

Movie Madness!

Edaphosaurus appears whenever Dimetrodon appears in proper documentaries. Therefore we can say with 100% sureness that Edaphosaurus has appeared in some type of film media as some species or other. The Paleoworld series episode "Tale of a Sail" mentions these animals as prey items and shows a few skeletons and artistic impressions of Edaphosaurus. These visual representations are the run of the mill type interpretations that we went through on Saturday of this week.
Edaphosaurus isn't really that mean!
 Walking with Monsters, however, revamped and updated the look of the Edaphosaurus a little bit speeding them up a little and giving them a more mammal-like movement of facial muscles so that they almost convey emotion. The main emotion that they convey, either way, is fear during this episode as they are, once again, shown as prey. However, before the hunting sequence they are portrayed as rather cow-like animals (I promise they even moo), as I have mentioned before, though with a lizard-like face. They are less iguana influenced than some of the illustrations we looked at on Saturday, but noticeably still lizard-like. Check them out just grazing and lazing in the documentary (the second clip is longer being that it begins about 3 to 4 minutes before Edaphosaurus shows up):

08 May 2011

Edaphosaurus' Children

The Edaphosaurus is one of those animals that, despite its uniqueness, has not become widely popular. However, has a fact sheet for them all the same. Still, not a dinosaur, but it gets the name out there and maybe that will help more people learn about it. Of course, there are people that know something about it, including that it isn't a dinosaur:
There are coloring pages even for the Mother's Day extravaganza. Time to sit and color with mom is always fun for all of us!

07 May 2011

Edaphosaurus images

The type species, Edaphosaurus pogonias, had sail up to the back of the skull whereas our friend last week, Dimetrodon, has a sail free portion of its neck before the skull began. As stated, the two animals had different ancestry, and this accounts fo the majority of the differences in the body, especially the sails. As with any prehistoric animal different interpretations of the skeletal material are available to us thanks to a number of different illustrators and different paleontological accounts. One such alternate interpretation is the version of M. Shiraishi which possesses a strongly iguana-like presence in the facial construction of Edaphosaurus:
The bones of the skull are strongly iguana-like, however, most of the illustrations of Edaphosaurus are not as reptilian as the above version. The skull head on actually looks much more menacing than other herbivorous skulls:
Completely incorrect, as we know them today, interpretations freely flow about the internet as well. These include illustrations and paintings of the animals as slow swamp dwelling animals requiring the heat of the sun as well as other depictions which rely heavily on reptilian influences.
One of the worst examples of reptilian-ness in Edaphosaurus representations is found in the Museum of Western Bohemia in Plezn in the western side of the Czech Republic. While the display is large and rather interesting on original inspection it contains and Edaphosaurus which is clearly using its tongue to scent the air as a typical lizard or snake does:

06 May 2011

Edaphosaurus, Permian Cow

 What do you follow one of the most successful and vicious predators of the Early Permian with? Its prey! Think of it as a giant cow-like reptile with a large sail jutting out of its back. Edaphosaurus was the apex herbivore of its day. I know apex herbivore sounds funny- "All plants quivered when they saw the might and brute force of Edaphosaurus!"- but there really could not be a better word to convey how serious an eating machine this animal was.

It was built like an iguana, up to the sail anyway; stubby fat legs, wide body, thick tail. It was generally a slow animal also due to the size of its body. Then that sail! Just like its arch nemesis it possessed a threatening display billboard right on its back that probably also helped catch some sun (which is why they had that awesome tan year round). The most interesting thing about these two animals in respect to the sail is that they both came from different groups of animals. They probably had a common ancestor, but that was way back in the just coming to land days; a fish or very early amphibian that is to say. Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus actually exhibit a fantastic example of convergent evolution with their sails.

Edaphosaurus ought to make an interesting specimen, though of course, let's not forget that there are 5, and possibly a 6th, species that belong to the Edaphosaurus genus and we should certainly look at those as we move along.

05 May 2011

Popular Dimetrodon

1959's Journey to the Center of the Earth's Dimetrodon were clever interpretations but obviously false monsters. We saw the Walking with Monsters Dimetrodon that was fairly vicious and sprinted over short distances. And we made mention of the strange peculiarity of toy makers to include Dimetrodon in with dinosaurs in their giant dinosaur toy bins. So what's left to mention for our popular culture day? Well in 1974 a claymation/live action hybrid television show called Land of the Lost featured a number of animals. One of these animals was a Dimetrodon named Torchy. Torchy was a completely ridiculous TV interpretation of the animal, but ridiculousness is what makes for ratings, so I see their point:
Did I mention Torchy breathed fire?

Leaving Torchy behind, there is a fairly good, but older, documentary that is much more documentary than Walking with Monsters. You can watch the entire episode starting here (and continuing to the bottom):
Enjoy these new sources of popular culture! Also, enjoy Dr. Timothy Rowe, an email acquaintance of mine (I'd like to say a friend of mine because he does awesome work that I am very interested in, but it is, alas, not true)!

04 May 2011

Osborn and Dimetrodon

Henry Fairfield Osborn, curator of the American Museum of Natural History, first presented Dimetrodon in 1907 along with an Edaphosaurus skeleton found with the first Dimetrodon bones in Texas as a composite animal. The fact that he threw the two animals together to create one animal is crazy to us, but it has happened many times over the history of paleontology, and so itsn't something that is unheard of. The composite was illustrated by the great Charles Knight in the May edition of Scientific American. However, Osborn had Dimetrodon labeled as "Naosaurus." However, the synapsid was originally found and named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1884. Why Osborn changed the name is a mystery (to me). The name itself, meaning two types of teeth, is a reference to Dimetrodon possessing shearing teeth and stabbing canines.

03 May 2011

Dimetrodon in newsprint

Actually, we all know it's not newsprint that we look for here. However, I do have an article on the description of a new species of Dimetrodon, D. teutonis from the Lower Permian of Germany (which, if you know your history of Germany, makes the "teutonis" part make a lot of sense). That is found here. I also have a 1904 reading of a paper by E.C. Case on the morphology of pelycosaur skulls. This one I haven't admittedly perused yet, but the subject matter, even given the century old date, holds a lot of promise as some interesting as heck stuff. You can find that article here. There are hundreds of other papers, but one more specifically I wanted to share was about the evolutionary line of perm-triassic therapsids which, of course, has roots in pelycosaurs and other synapsids of the Permian Era. If you are also interested in this you can read it here. For those with time and curious minds feel free to look through the search results that I dragged these three papers out of from Google's Scholar. There wasn't anything on Plosone today.

02 May 2011

Dimetrodon the actor.

In 1959 a version of Journey to the Center of the Earth was released that included a scene where a "Dimetrodon" and his family chased and attacked the main characters. These Dimetrodon were made out of some clever prosthetics and live iguanas running about on screen. While obviously not the real animal it was done fairly well for what it was and it's kind of funny as well.The "attack" begins at the 6:50 mark of this first clip and ends in the beginning of the second clip:

Dimetrodon has been updated since then thanks to computer graphics and set loose on its Permian prey Edaphosaurus in Walking with Monsters from the BBC.
But, more importantly for paleontologists, Dimetrodon are still being found very nearly complete and well articulated in Texas by Robert Bakker's dig team from the Houston Museum of Natural History. This video from last season's dig shows what kind of things they are finding.

01 May 2011

Dimetrodon and kids.

Dimetrodon is like the gateway drug for childhood dinosaur fanatics. Growing up a wee bit we find out it's not a dinosaur, but it was still the first interesting animal we found in the giant tub of dinosaurs someone bought us. All the other animals were pretty typically shaped monsters but that sail really piqued our interests. Growing up the first model I ever built, before planes and cars and tanks and a few boats, was a Dimetrodon standing proudly on a rock outcropping. In fact, this is the box and finished model:
So obviously we were led to believe this was a dinosaur by its inclusion in that tub of dinosaurs and the model here. Today we can inform the kids in our lives that Dimetrodon is way older than dinosaurs and that makes it even more interesting; "There was else something before dinosaurs? No way!" So here to share the facts is the dubiously titled (I say that and I'm putting Dimetrodon on a page called Dinosaur of the Week). Then we have Enchanted Learning's online coloring page. Of course, what would kids day be without more coloring with a search result from Google or toys from a wide selection of places to go? I'll leave you with a meeting of the Dimetrodon toys of the world: