The second group, synapsids ("single-arched"), is distinguished by the presence
of one opening behind the eyesocket and one temporal arch.
The most primitive synapsids, the pelycosaurs, beginning from the end of the
Carboniferous Period, became most diverse in the Early Permian of North America.
In the Late Permian of East Europe very few representatives of the pelycosaurs are
known, and among them are Ennatosaurus and Mesenosaurus.
Very diverse advanced synapsids, the therapsids ("beast-arched"), inhabited all the
continents in the Late Permian, but only few survived in the Triassic.
These animals are the ancestors of mammals. In the end of the Paleozoic Era, the
therapsids dominated the fauna of terrestrial vertebrates in both the southern
continent, Gondwana, and the northern one, Laurasia.
The richest records of therapsids have been collected in the Permian depositions
of East Europe. The most ancient forms come from the early Late Permian
and belong to the eotheriodonts ("early beast-toothed").
In the "Russian Dinosaur Exposition" they are represented by both a predatory form (Eotitanosuchus), and a huge herbivorous one (Estemmenosuchus).
Descendants of the theriodonts have formed several large groups.
Dinocephalia ("horrible-headed"), distinguished by an extraordinary
thickened skull roof, replaced the eotheriodonts till the middle Late Permian.
Like the eotheriodonts, the dinocephalians created both large predatory forms (Titanophoneus) and large herbivorous forms (Ulemosaurus).
Anomodontia ("abnormal-toothed") lived at the same time as the dinocephalians.
The advanced representatives of the anomodonts, the dicynodonts ("double-fanged") have only two very large fangs in the upper jaw.
All known anomodonts are herbivores (Dicynodon, Lystrosaurus).
The principal therapsid group is the theriodonts ("beast-toothed").
In the exhibition, they are represented by the large predator Inostrancevia and two
therocephals ("beast-headed"): ichthyvorous Annatherapsidus and small insectivorous
Silphedosuchus. The most evolutionarily important are advanced theriodonts, the cynodonts ("dogtoothed"), represented in the exhibition by Dvinia.
Cynodonts are related most closely to the primitive mammals.
These two groups share many common features, in partivular, broadened teeth with
a number of cusps, suitable for chewing a food, and the development of
a bony palate, separating the respiratory tract from the mouth cavity.
Possibly, the theriodonts were also covered by a primitive fur that could
prevent drying rather than provide insulation.
Moreover, the cynodots, like mammals, probably possessed the diaphragmatic breath.
A specialization of the jaw apparatus in the theriodonts "released"
some bones of the lower jaw, which in strongly reduced and transformed
state make up the structure of the middle ear in mammals.
But the most essential aspect in mammalian evolution was a progressive development
of the brain that had already begun in some advanced theriodonts.
return to Diapsidsgo to Nyctepheritus

go to the specimen index

return to dino expo
return to