Prehistoric Animals: Estemmenosuchus!

Estemmenosuchus Feb 19 2015

In case you’re stuck, here’s the pronunciation: Es-tim-men-oh-SUE-kus.

Ah, yes. Beautiful, odd, bizarre Estemmenosuchus, the “wreathed with a crown crocodile”. The horns of Estemmenosuchus grow upwards from the frontal skull bones and seem to have primarily been spectacular display devices, especially if the horns and protuberances were adorned with bright colors in life.

Despite the meaning of its name, it was far from crocodilian; in truth is was a therapsid, which was the family of reptiles that produced the earliest mammals.  As with other large therapsids, experts aren’t quite sure what Estemmnosuchus ate. Its sharp canines and incisors point Estemmenosuchus toward being a carnivore.‭ ‬However, many of the herbivorous therapsids still had carnivore like teeth as they evolved,‭ ‬and the large, bulky body suggest that it was shaped to  hold a large digestive system(plants take longer to digest than meat and therefore herbivores need a bigger, rounder body to accommodate the appropriate digestive system).‭The safest bet is that it was an opportunistic omnivore.

As it was in the evolutionary branch that was moving toward mammals, some scientists think it even had a thin coat of hair.


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