Sunday, September 30, 2012


Have you ever heard of Lystrosaurus? This amazing little creature was one of the very few lifeforms that actually survived the massive Permian/Triassic extinction event. Because they were able to make it through, they absolutely thrived during the Early Triassic, and were the most common land animals!

There are about half a dozen different species within the genus, and they have been found in what is now Southern Africa, Asia, and Antarctica. If that sounds like an odd distribution, remember that back 250 million years ago, those continents were actually joined together.

So what was Lytrosaurus? Well.. it was't a Dinosaur, despite the name. They actually weren't really reptiles either... Confusing, right? They were Therapsids, odd, mammal/reptile like creatures that would eventually evolve into the mammals we have today.

Lystrosaurus was about the size of a small pig and had short snouts, and only two, shovel-like teeth. They were herbivores that probably walked with a semi-spawling gate. There are many theories on why these animals survived when others did not. Some think that because they burrowed, they could cope with the low Oxygen air.  Others think that their small-ish size, semi-aquatic lifestyle, and varied diet helped to keep them going.

We know quite a bit about this extinct genus because their fossils are amazingly abundant. They were so common back in the Triassic that 95% of fossils in some sites belong to these animals!

Status : Extinct for 250 million years
Location : South Africa, Asia, Antarctica
Size : Length up to 3ft (.9m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Synapsida -- Order : Therapsida
Family : †Lystrosauridae -- Genus : †Lystrosaurus

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