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The Origins Museum Institute

presents

Paleozoica
From The Genesis Exhibit
Drawn from the worlds foremost fossil collections, the
unprecedented treasury of fossil casts known as THE
GENESIS EXHIBIT brings together into one exhibition some
of the most exciting finds in the history of paleontology from
over a century of worldwide excavations, exhibited as
sculptural works of art.

Spanning 4.6 billion years in scope, from the earliest


invertebrate marine life, through the Triassic, Jurassic, and
Cretaceous dinosaurs to sabre-toothed cats, this
comprehensive collection from the Texas Museum of Natural
Historys internationally acclaimed THE GENESIS EXHIBIT
dramatically illustrates the awesome story of prehistoric life on
Earth.

Displaying casts of rare fossils from the Americas,


Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, this prestigious collection
includes skeletons, skulls, claws, and eggs gathered from such
revered museums as the Smithsonian Institution, The
American Museum of Natural History, The Royal Ontario
Museum, and the Carnegie Museum, as well as many others.

This famed traveling exhibition is now available direct


from its celebrated showings at the World Trade Centers in
Boston, San Juan, and Taichung, the Fernbank Museum of
Natural History in Atlanta, the Dinosaur Discovery Center at
Colorado National Monument, The Texas Museum of Natural
History in Austin, and the Natural History Museum of El Paso,
where it was admired by millions of people. These compelling
natural artifacts, rarely seen outside of their respective
museums, are on view together exclusively in THE GENESIS
EXHIBIT and its touring collections.
As art sometimes reflects nature, so, in turn, does nature
occasionally reflect art. These bones, and teeth, and talons tell
a story. A story of living molecules beginning to reproduce
themselves in an ancient sea and gradually crawling out onto
dry land. A story of dynasties of giant, complex creatures
dominating land and sea and sky, descended from the tiniest
and simplest of ancestors in an incredible chain of
reproduction and diversification. A story of strength and
ferocity and gentleness in titanic proportions. In other words,
the story of the ingenious adaptability of life in the face of
death. For in this struggle we see dramatic evidence of
natures unrelentingly exploratory forces at work. Viewed as a
progression of sculptures, one could say that a distinct style
emerges early and gradually refines itself over millions of years,
sometimes simple, sometimes quite baroque, and usually
astonishingly practical. A story without words, cleft by
humankind from stone.

Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) NASA Hubble photograph


THE PRECAMBRIAN ERA
from 4.6 billion to 570 million years ago
During the first 3 billion years of the planets existence there was
no ozone layer in the atmosphere to shield the land from the suns 1. Kingdom Procaryotae Incertae Sedis
ultraviolet rays. Life on Earth began in the dark ocean depths Archaeoscillatoriopsis grandis
where these rays, destructive to the delicate DNA molecules that Archaeotrichion septatum
are exclusive to living organisms, could not penetrate. The early Primaevifilum amoenum
self-reproducing one-celled organisms, known as procaryotes, Early Precambrian, Australia
were so primitive that they did not possess a distinct cell nucleus.
About a billion years ago, these simple asexual cells gave rise to The most ancient direct evidence of life on earth was found in
the more complex eucaryotes which possess a cell nucleus along Western Australia, where outcroppings of dense, sedimentary chert
with the capacity for sexual reproduction, which allowed for the contain the oldest undoubted microfossils known. Paleobotanist J.
exchange of genetic material and, as a result, evolutionary William Schopf and his colleagues discovered several species of
variability between organisms. benthic, primordial microbes including the probable cyanobacteria
(blue-green algae) Archaeoscillatoriopsis grandis and
As some of these early microorganisms began producing oxygen, Primaevifilum amoenum. Flimsily organized in mucilage, this
the oceans and the atmosphere gradually became abundant with it. microbial assemblage attests to the extreme antiquity of oxygen-
A reaction between lightning and the oxygen in the atmosphere producing, photosynthetic physiology. Interpreted as probable
slowly produced a layer of ozone gas which, in turn, gradually bacteria, Archaeotrichion septatum closely resembles modern
began to filter out enough of the harmful ultraviolet rays to permit forms, confirming that anoxic bacteria were already abundant at
habitation of the shallower waters and, subsequently, the land. this early phase of biotic history.

In Western Australia the fossilized remains of simple Heralding the appearance of one-celled organisms, these sinuous
microorganisms (such as bacteria) have been found in rocks that relics of once living procaryotic cells are dated at 3.465 billion
are close to 3.5 billion years old. This was the Archean Era, also years, astounding evidence of an evolving, biotic continuum
known as the Precambrian period, which lasted until about 570 spanning from the Early Archean Rocks from the nearby planet
million years ago. The earliest organisms visible to the naked eye Mars, bearing controversial geological anomalies of similar age
did not appear until about 700 million years ago. During the Late and form to confirmed terrestrial fossil bacteria, have been found
Precambrian, the formation of Gondwanaland united the modern lying on top of the ice in Antarctica as cosmic debris.
continents of the Southern Hemisphere, providing warm, shallow, Microfossiliferous rock sample and photomicrographs of cellularly
offshore environments where complex living organisms first arose. preserved specimens from the Early Archean Apex Basalt courtesy
of J. William Schopf. British Museum of Natural History.
2. Kingdom Monera
Phylum Cyanophyta 3. Kingdom Monera,
Collenia versiformis Phylum Cyanophyta
Early Precambrian, Minnesota Collenia tubiformis
Late Precambrian, Montana
The oldest known visible structures produced by living organisms,
stromatolites (Cushion Stones) are the fossilized remains of Containing chlorophyll, the catalyst which employs sunlight for
slimy mounds or mats formed by the cementing (in distinctive the conversion of water and carbon dioxide into food, the
layers) of calcium carbonate sediments to the filmy, gelatinous enormous bacterial communities that built the stromatolites were
secretions of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. responsible for the abundance of oxygen both in the oceans and the
Appearing in the fossil record 2.5 billion years ago, these atmosphere, releasing it as metabolic waste. The algae that
primordial colonies of photosynthetic microorganisms formed flourished in the ancient seas also gave rise to the first plants.
great reefs in the warmer lakes and shallow seas of the Because the growth of these mounds of algae are an indication of
Precambrian. This sliced cross-section of the 2-billion-year-old the water depths at high tide, such fossils provide evidence of a
stromatolite Collenia reveals an algae formation twisted by floods time when the moon was much closer to the Earth. This Collenia
or volcanic activity. Private collection. tubiformis specimen is over a billion years old. Private collection.
THE EDIACARA FAUNA

Scattered throughout the world, the first isolated communities of


multicellular animal life in the oldest inhabited seas appear to have
developed around the oxygen enriched oases of algal colonies from
700 to 600 million years ago. Discovered in the Ediacara Hills of
South Australia by Sir Reginald Sprigg in 1947 and known as the
Ediacara fauna, these rare Precambrian life forms are the most
primitive known. With cells organized into actual tissue and
equipped with rudimentary vascular systems, they probably
absorbed oxygen through their skin, tending to prevent their 4. Kingdom Animalia,
becoming too thickly-tissued, unlike any animals that have Phylum Cnidaria
succeeded them. Rugoconites tenuirugosus
Late Precambrian, South Australia
Evidence of glaciation and a meteorite impact correspond to the
disappearance of this fauna from the fossil record, separating the Among the first metazoans to arise from protozoan ancestry were
Precambrian Era from that of the Paleozoic. Although these early the coelenterates (Hollow Entrails), or cnidarians. From sea
animal prototypes did not survive into the Paleozoic, they appear anemones and corals to jellyfish, these marine organisms are
to have produced a variety of survivors including segmented known for their great beauty and diversity. As with modern forms,
annelid worms (the presumed ancestors of the arthropods), as well many primitive varieties possessed poisonous stinging cells
as cnidarians (jellyfish), and echinoderms (the presumed ancestors capable of paralyzing prey on contact. Among the oldest and most
of the chordates). The red coloration of the rocks containing the primitive of such creatures are the primordial medusae (or jellyfish)
imprints of these dawn animals is attributed to the oxidation of iron of the Precambrian, whose colorful modern descendants are
in the sand of the ancient tidal flats as a result of the growing virtually unchanged. Although their soft structures consisted
abundance of the corrosive gas in the atmosphere. From the Late mainly of water, some ancient jellyfish such as Rugoconites (the
Precambrian Ediacaran deposits of Flinders Range, South Australia. oldest known true medusoid jellyfish) were durable enough to
University of Adelaide. fossilize after washing onto the beach and drying in the sun.
Remarkably preserved, this ancient impression is more than half a
billion years old.
5. Phylum Cnidaria, Class Cubozoa 6. Phylum Cnidaria, Class Scyphozoa
Kimberella quadrata Ediacaria flindersi
Late Precambrian, South Australia Late Precambrian, South Australia

Beginning life as a tiny polyp attached to the underside of a rock, Long regarded as one of the earliest jellyfishes, the well-
followed by metamorphosis into a medusa, this archetypic documented Ediacaria may have lived a sedentary existence on the
cubozoan (preserved in side view) possessed an elongate, square- sea floor with its short tentacles extended upwards, an assumption
edged umbrella. Commonly known as sea-wasps, this extant form resulting from the discovery of an anemone-like orifice on some
of deadly, long-tentacled jellyfish is the most venomous predator Ediacaria specimens.
on Earth, capable of inflicting instantaneous death.
8. Phylum Annelida,
Class Polychaeta
7. Kingdom Animalia, Spriggina floundersi
Phylum Annelida Late Precambrian, South Australia
Dickinsonia costata Well-documented in the fossil record, Spriggina attests to the
Late Precambrian, South Australia diversity of the early annelids, whose descendants (including
earthworms and leeches) are still alive today. A flattened,
A bizarrely flattened and discoidal segmented marine worm segmented marine worm, the extraordinary preservation of most
indigenous to the primordial tidal flats of southern Australia, Spriggina specimens reveals a small, muscular creature with
Dickinsonia was usually quite small, although on occasion some relatively simple nervous and excretory systems. Owing to the
grew to extraordinary lengths. Already a diverse group by the end enlargement of its head and other physical similarities, it has been
of the Precambrian, the annelid worms presumably gave rise to the suggested that this annelid may have been ancestral to the trilobites.
segmented arthropods.
9. Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Echinodermata
Tribrachidium heraldicum
Late Precambrian, South Australia

Representing the echinoderms in the Precambrian community is


the tiny, coin-shaped fossil known as Tribrachidium, though it is
such a primitive form that it exhibits only 3 of the 5 symmetrical 10. Phylum Cnidaria, Class Anthozoa
body sections that distinguish true echinoderms such as starfish, Charniodiscus opositus
sea urchins, and crinoids. Within this group the origin of the Late Precambrian, South Australia
chordates, the soft-spined ancestors of the vertebrates, is theorized
to have occurred. If Tribrachidium is an echinoderm, then it may Rising like delicate seaweed plumes from the bulbous holdfasts
be evidence of the presence of the ancestors of the vertebrates in anchoring them to the substrate and swaying with the gentle
the oldest known seas. currents, Pennatulaceans resembling Charniodiscus were
widespread throughout the world, from Newfoundland to England
and Australia. This group exhibits distinguishing characteristics
that still persist in living pennatulaceans.
12. Phylum Cnidaria,
Order Pennatulacea
11. Phylum Cnidaria, Glaessnerina grandis
Order Pennatulacea Late Precambrian, South Australia
Charniodiscus arboreus
Late Precambrian, South Australia The last of such featherlike creatures to be found in the Late
Ediacaran deposits, Glaessnerina was the nearest to modern forms of
Sea pens, or Pennatulaceans, are soft corals that live a benthic sea pens. Because conditions favorable to fossilization persisted past
existence attached to the sea floor. Those of the earliest inhabited the point of Glaessnerinas disappearance from the Precambrian
seas were large, frondose structures that lived by filtering tiny deposits, it is assumed that they declined to the point of extinction.
particles of food from the warm waters of the shallow tidal flats.
THE EARLY TO MIDDLE
PALEOZOIC ERA
from 570 million to 345 million years ago
Known as the Cambrian explosion, about 570 million years ago
dense populations of complex sea creatures suddenly appeared,
marking the beginning of the Cambrian period and of the Paleozoic
Era. First discovered in northern Wales (once known as Cambria),
fossils of this period document the early establishment of all
modern animal phyla, followed by the emergence of primitive
jawless fishes in the Ordovician (500 million years ago), named for
an ancient Celtic tribe of western Wales, the Ordovices, whose
farms were built on rocks rich in fossils.

Following the Ordovician, rock formations found along the border


of Wales and England derive their name from the savage tribe of
13. Phylum Cnidaria, Silures that inhabited the region during the Roman occupation.
Order Pennatulacea Throughout the Silurian (435 million years ago), plants and
Cyclomedusa davidi insects invaded the land. In the Devonian (395 million years ago),
Late Precambrian, South Australia characterized by fossils first discovered in Devon, England,
advanced lobe-finned fishes and tetrapod amphibians appeared in
Long regarded as ancestral jellyfish, the discoidal Cyclomedusae the freshwater streams of the newly formed Old Red Sandstone
are now considered by the Australian scientists who have studied Continent which united Greenland with Europe and North America.
them for years to have been the holdfasts of other animals that At the close of both the Ordovician and Devonian periods,
lived attached to the substrate, the sea pens. Gondwanaland drifted over the south pole, triggering the onset of
glacial episodes accompanied by mass extinctions of marine life.
15. Phylum Echinodermata,
Class Eocrinoidea
Gogia kitchnerensis
Middle Cambrian, Utah
14. Phylum Arthropoda, Appearing in the Early Cambrian and exhibiting the pentameral
Order Agnostida symmetry characteristic of echinoderms (the group which includes
Ptychagnostus starfish and sea-urchins), the eocrinoids (Dawn Crinoids) of the
Middle Cambrian, Utah shallow Cambrian seas were bottom-dwelling, bud-shaped
creatures on elongated, tapering stems. Lacking the specialized
Already well-established by the dawn of the Cambrian, this ancient
respiratory structures of their more advanced descendants, these
order of minuscule, ancestral trilobites must have evolved in the
primitive marine animals fed by transporting tiny, filtered food
primordial seas of the Precambrian. Although most agnostids
particles along their simple brachioles (arms) to their mouths,
(Unaware Ones) were not equipped with eyes, these early
which were located on top of the bud, or theca. Although quite rare,
creatures, less than half an inch in size, persisted for some 135
they persisted for over 200 million years, disappearing after the
million years. Ptychagnostus (Folded Unaware One),
Silurian.
characterized by their minute size, lack of eyes and greatly reduced
thoracic (mid-section) segments, lived a planktonic, drifting The origin of the first chordates (ancestors of the vertebrates)
lifestyle in dark, murky marine environments which apparently appears to have occurred within the early echinoderm group, some
were not conducive to vision. They became extinct around the of whose free-swimming larvae closely resemble the simplest
close of the Ordovician. Private collection. living invertebrate chordates, the acorn worms which live along the
geothermal vents at the bottom of the sea. Private collection.
THE BURGESS FAUNA

Discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott in 1909, the Middle


Cambrian deposits of the Burgess Shale of British Columbia
represent the period of abundant genetic diffusion which followed
the initial explosion of rapidly diversifying animal forms at the
dawn of the Cambrian. These extraordinary shadow fossils,
known as the Burgess fauna, are the filmy remains of creatures that
were buried alive about 530 million years ago by a series of
16. Kingdom Monera, mudslides at the base of a massive algal reef, leaving an
Phylum Cyanophta unparalleled record of the soft-bodied animal life indigenous to a
Cryptozoon proliferum primordial sea that stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific
Late Cambrian, New York of Southern California. Miraculously preserved to the finest detail
as reflective imprints of carbonized film on black shale, these
Providing a variety of habitats for the sudden explosion of primitive marine organisms are startling evidence of the presence
invertebrate life throughout the planet at the dawn of the Cambrian, of all existing animal phyla in the Middle Cambrian seas,
the stromatolite reefs all but vanished about 570 million years ago, alongside a number of extinct forms that defy classification in any
presumably as a result of widespread grazing on the algae that known groups. From the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of
formed them. Although fossilized algae is distributed throughout British Columbia. U.S. National Museum.
the world, exceedingly rare, living stromatolites are found only in
such isolated places as the Bahamas and Australia where the
currents are too swift or the waters too hypersaline to permit
grazing. Exposed by glacial activity, this spectacular form of
Cryptozoon (Secret Life) grew along the barrier reefs of an
ancient island now known as the Adirondack Mountains. Monroe
Community College.
17. Phylum Arthropoda,
Class Trilobita
Olenoides serratus
Middle Cambrian, British Columbia

Preserved in exceedingly rare condition, with its soft-tissued


antennae and limbs intact, including gills and chewing bases, this
small but widespread denizen of the ancient reef habitats is one of
the oldest and best-known of the early spined trilobites. Belonging
to the corynexochid order, Olenoides was characterized by eyes of
medium size with a pygidium (tail) of smaller size than its
cephalon (head). Although its soft parts were protected by a sturdy
exoskeleton (which it periodically shed as it grew), it was a passive
and defenseless scavenger that lived by filtering tiny particles of
food from the muddy sea floor.

Phylum Arthropoda,
Order Limulavida
Sidneyia inexpectans
Middle Cambrian, British Columbia

Swimming by means of a tail fan resembling those of crustaceans,


this predatory arthropod exhibits the combined characteristics of
distinct family groups which have subsequently diverged
(chelicerates and crustaceans). It fed by passing food from its rear
limbs to its mouth, as do most marine arthropods, whose legs are
outfitted with spiny teeth. The digested remains of tiny trilobites
have been found in the guts of some specimens
18. Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Chordata
Pikaia gracilens
Middle Cambrian, British Columbia

The unlikely preservation of this tiny marine organism supplies


one of the most important clues to the enigmatic origin of the
vertebrates. Despite its long standing classification as an annelid
worm, its profound reinterpretation in 1979 by Simon Conway
Morris and Harry Whittington revealed the distinguishing bands of
muscles and dorsal notochord extending the length of its body
which identify this swimming filtrator-feeder of the shallow seas
as the oldest known chordate, a direct ancestor of the vertebrates.
Outnumbered by vast varieties of arthropods and coelenterates, the
first proto-fishes appear to have been represented exclusively by
this single species in the Cambrian seas of western Canada where
this rare and important creature (along with its myriad descendants)
once faced a very tenuous future in terms of survival.

Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Arthropoda
Waptia fieldensis
Middle Cambrian, British Columbia

Although superficially shrimplike, this primordial marine creature


is ranked among the unplaceable early arthropods of unique
anatomical form. Among the most common of the Burgess
arthropods and dwelling almost exclusively on the shallow sea
floor where it extracted small particles of food from the muddy
sediment, it was probably a weak swimmer and did not actively
pursue prey.
TRILOBITES 19. Order Redlichiida,
Family Olenellidae
The most commonly preserved creatures of the ancient Cambrian Bristolia bristolensis
seas were the ubiquitous trilobites (Three Lobes). Comprising Early Cambrian, California
more than half of all known animal life at the time, they shared the
warmer waters with early jellyfish and sponges. Throughout the An early member of the olenellid family, representative of the
Silurian and Devonian periods, as predatory eurypterid, early redlichiid order, with large, crescent-shaped eyes. Among the
jawed fish, and amphibians appeared and proliferated, the numbers oldest and most primitive of trilobites, a spined, bottom-dwelling
of trilobites dwindled, disappearing entirely at the close of the scavenger capable of both swimming and crawling.
Paleozoic Era some 245 million years ago.

These vastly diversified primordial invertebrates, exhibited in


chronological progression, comprise 8 distinct orders (including
the Agnostida) and represent every period of the Paleozoic Era
from their sudden appearance in the Early Cambrian to their
extinction in the Permian. From private collections.

20. Class Trilobita,


Order Corynexochida
Olenoides superbus
Middle Cambrian, Utah

A common representative of the widespread corynexochid order,


characterized by its medium-sized eyes and enlarged pygidium
(tail).
22. Class Trilobita,
Order Corynexochida
Wanneria walcottana
Late Cambrian, Pennsylvania
21. Order Corynexochida,
Family Ogygopsidae
A late representative of the dwindling corynexochids which died
Hemirhodon amphipyge
out by the close of the Cambrian, characterized by its medium-
Middle Cambrian, Utah
sized eyes and spiny pleura (ribs). A scavenger adapted for
A member of the ogygopsid family, a variant form of crawling on the muddy sea floor.
corynexochid, characterized by medium-sized eyes and a broad,
fused pygidium, well-developed for burrowing.
23. Class Trilobita,
Order Odontopleurida
Eoceraurus trapezoidalis
Ordovician, Oklahoma

The spines of these peculiar trilobites were special adaptations for


the widest possible distribution of body weight on the soft sea floor,
where its life was spent crawling in the mud. From the Ordovician
of Oklahoma. Excellently preserved along with the partial remains
of a juvenile of the same species, this rare, early phacopid
belonged to a diverse new order distinguished by its highly
24. Class Trilobita, complex eyes.
Family Raphiophoridae
Lonchodomas mcgeheei
Ordovician, Oklahoma

This unusual and highly specialized member of the raphiophorid


family was a sightless, lightly built swimmer, protected from
predators by its long spines which also may have aided in surface
flotation and drifting with the current.

25. Class Trilobita,


Order ptychopariida
Amphyxina bellatula
Ordovician, Missouri

Tiny, gregarious examples of the ptychopariids, an extremely


diverse order which gave rise to most of the trilobites that appeared
after the Cambrian, descended from the older, extinct redlichiids,
which their earliest representatives resembled.
27. Order Phacopida,
Family Dalmanitidae
Kanoshia kanoshensis
Late Ordovician, Utah

A typical example of trilobite behavior, this early form of phacopid,


ancestral to the later dalmanitid family and distinguished by its
distinctively flared pygidium, commonly protected itself from
danger by rolling up when threatened.

26. Order ptychopariida,


Family Trinucleidae
Cryptolithus laelus
Ordovician, Pennsylvania

An elegant, pyritized example of the vast order of ptychopariids,


this tiny, sightless member of the widespread trinucleid family
possessed a broad, perforated brim along the cephalon (head) and
elongated genal spines, which supported its body on the soft,
muddy sea floor on which it lived.

28. Class Trilobita, Order Proetida


Fragiscutum glebalis
Silurian, Oklahoma
A tiny and uniquely specialized member of the longstanding
proetid order, capable of enrolling and distinguished by its unusual
eyes positioned at the ends of short stalks.
30. Order Phacopida,
Family Calymenidae
Diacalymene clavicula
Silurian, Oklahoma

A member of the abundant calymenid family, a variant form of


phacopid with smaller, simpler eyes than its more specialized
relatives, and typically found enrolled.

29. Class Trilobita, Order Lichida


Arctinurus boltoni
Silurian, New York

A large and splendid example of the diverse order of lichids, a


broad, flattened form well-suited to a life spent crawling on the sea
floor, filtering organic food particles from the mud.
32. Class Trilobita, Order Lichida
Dicranurus hamatus
Early Devonian, Oklahoma
This rare, exotic form of lichid was equipped with a pair of horns
and elongate, prickly spines extending from every part of its body,
an effective defense against the growing number of marine
predators.

31. Order Phacopida,


Family Dalmanitidae
Huntonia oklahomae
Early Devonian, California

An unusually specialized phacopid, this long-snouted member of


the widespread dalmanitid family was well-adapted for plowing in
the sand and burrowing, lying with only its head exposed,
watching with its compound eyes and waiting for tiny prey to
crawl or drift by.

33. Class Trilobita,


Order Odontopleurida
Leonaspis williamsii
Early Devonian, Oklahoma

With tiny eyes positioned on the tips of short, stiff stalks, this small,
bizarrely barbed trilobite was among the last representatives of the
rather spiny order of odontopleurids, which had persisted from the
Late Cambrian.
35. Class Trilobita, Order Proetida
Ditomopyge parvulus
Pennsylvanian, Oklahoma

This cluster of tiny, pyritized proetids may represent moltings


rather than the actual remains of the animals themselves, which
periodically shed their exoskeletons as they grew.

34. Order Proetida,


Family Phillipsidae
Breviphillipsia sampsonii
Mississippian, Missouri

A member of the diverse phillipsid family, representative of the


far-ranging proetid order which flourished from the Ordovician to
the end of the Paleozoic.

36. Class Trilobita, Order Proetida


Delaria antiqua
Permian, Texas
Descended from the primitive ptychopariids of the Early Cambrian
and characterized by its large eyes and pygidium and the ability to
enroll, this late proetid was among the very last of the trilobites.
37. Class Trilobita,
Order Ptychopariida
Isotelus maximus
Late Ordovician, Ohio
Among the largest of the early giant forms of trilobites was the
well-documented Isotelus which ranged up to 30 inches in length.
As a group the Ptychopariids were probably ancestral to most of
198. Class Trilobita,
the trilobite groups that appeared after the Cambrian. Capable of
Order Redlichiida
crawling along the sea floor, this perfectly preserved individual
Acadoparadoxides
was also equipped with a broad pygidium (tail section) for plowing
Early Cambrian, New York
burrows in the mud. Although animal coloration does not fossilize,
patterns indicating the former presence of color are sometimes
The paradoxid trilobites were the first animal group on earth to
preserved. Exceedingly rare clues to the coloring of trilobites are
produce a variety so dramatically larger than its relatives that it
evidenced by the preservation of stripes on some Isotelus maximus
qualifies as a giant. Preserved together, these magnificent
specimens. Private collection.
specimens are over half a billion years old. Private collection.
39. Class Trilobita, Order Phacopida
Dalmanites
Early Silurian, Tennessee

Though some trilobites were sightless, most were equipped with


either single-lens or compound eyes. With an almost hemispherical
field of vision to aid them in their hunt for food on the muddy
ocean bottoms, trilobites were the first creatures on Earth to
develop complex eyes, some of which were composed of over
10,000 individual lenses.

Although compound eyes were not uncommon among the


diminished groups of trilobites that survived the Ordovician
extinction, this progressive order of early phacopids had eyes
equipped with an advanced type of lens structure that enabled them
to see better in the deeper, darker waters and at night. Inhabiting
the offshore marine environments of the Silurian, this rare and
38. Phylum Arthropoda, giant form of Dalmanites may have been nocturnal. Burrowing
Class Trilobita with its diminutive telson (tail spike) into the soft sand until only
Homotelus bromidensis their heads were exposed, they would lie in wait for tiny drifting
Ordovician, Oklahoma prey. Private collection.

Presumably evolved from segmented Precambrian annelid worms,


these primitive arthropods, distinguished by their simple eyes and
enlarged cephalons and pygidia, were simple scavengers, dwelling
on the muddy sea bottoms and grubbing for food, periodically
shedding their sturdy exoskeletons as their softer internal parts
outgrew them. A gentle and gregarious creature, Homotelus
(Same End) derives its name from the similarity between its
anterior and posterior sections. This spectacular cluster of 30
ptychopariid trilobites perished together 500 million years ago in
the ancient sea of Oklahoma, preserved in a mass burial along with
cast-off moltings, in beautiful mosaic detail. Private collection.
40. Phylum Arthropoda,
Class Eurypterida
Eurypterus remipes
Eurypterus lacustris
Pterygotus macrophthalmus
Late Silurian, New York

Widespread throughout the Paleozoic Era, these giant water


scorpions were particularly abundant during the Silurian Period
(465 to 415 million years ago) when they ranged marine
environments to brackish streams and

marine environments to brackish streams and estuaries. The sharp


telson, or tailspike of Eurypterus (Wing Fin), primarily useful
for correcting its position when stranded upside down on the sea-
floor, may have been armed with a venomous stinger. Two
individuals of one species and a smaller individual of another
species are dramatically preserved together with yet another
species of eurypterid prominent at the bottom of the slab. Armed
with pincers and a spiked fantail Pterygotus was a ferocious
predator. Numerous fossilized trilobites bear scars left by the
fearsome pincers of such creatures.

Descended from trilobites (whose enormous populations they


helped to decrease), these impressive invertebrates possessed an
elongated, segmented body and were equipped with a pair of
compound eyes as well as a pair of simple ones. Sometimes
growing to lengths of as much as 10 feet, these early arthropods
were the direct antecedents of the first creatures to leave the
aquatic environment to inhabit dry land: the scorpions. Private
collection.
47. Phylum Arthropoda, The discovery of fossil trails left in the mud near Oslo
Class Eurypterida suggest an amphibious lifestyle allowing for these ferocious
Mixopterus kiaeri creatures to crawl out of the water onto dry land on their 2 sets of
Silurian, Norway legs for brief periods of time, its menacing tail curled over its back
while hunting. The most scorpion-like of all the diverse groups of
Prowling the ancient seas and brackish estuaries of Norway, this eurypterids, this fearsome variety appears to be their direct
massive predatory arthropod, over 3 feet in length, preyed on fish ancestor. Discovered in 1909, they were widely spread throughout
and trilobites grasped in its spiny appendages or pierced with the northern Europe and North America. From the University of Oslo
spike at the tip of its tail. Other appendages, modified from its Geological Museum.
mouth parts, served for swimming, crawling, and mating.
of disabling their prey. Unlike the tiny, primitive Silurian
scorpions, the amphibious Devonian forms were adapted to
feeding out of water. External digestion, or liquid feeding, is not
possible in an aquatic environment, where ingestion of solid food
is necessary. The Devonian scorpions exhibit a definite landward
trend along the deltas and intertidal estuaries of central Europe
with the sole exception of Palaeoscorpius, a formidably large
example known exclusively from deep marine deposits. From the
University of Bonn.

41. Phylum Arthropoda,


Class Arachnida
Palaeoscorpius devonicus
Late Devonian, Germany

Among the very first creatures to abandon the aquatic environment


and invade the land, an event which took place during the Late
Silurian, were the scorpions. Derived from eurypterid, the earliest
true scorpions were marine creatures. Pressured by the rise of
predatory fishes and eurypterid, the appearance of amphibious
scorpions, capable of surviving In a terrestrial environment for
limited visits, presumably led to the establishment of completely
terrestrial, air breathing varieties.

Related to spiders, these ferocious predatory arachnids possess a


venomous stinger on the tip of the tail, with which they are capable
42. Superclass Agnatha, during the Ordovician, feeding on tiny plants and animals filtered
Order Osteostraci from the gentle currents that washed along their feather-like
Cephalaspis lyelli pinnules to their mouths. Attached by their delicate stems to
Early Devonian, Scotland objects on the sea floor, these echinoderms spent most of their
lives anchored in one place, although they were capable of
Ancestral to the first true fishes, the Agnatha (Jawless Ones) are relocating when necessary, either by drifting or by crawling slowly
the oldest fossil vertebrates. Of this early group of marine and along the sea floor. From the Humboldt Museum.
freshwater creatures, Cephalaspis (Shield Head) was the most
successful and enduring. Ranging throughout the Late Silurian
rivers, lakes, and estuaries from Asia to Germany, it had spread as
far as eastern Canada by the end of the Devonian.

With its head encased in a bony, armored carapace (or shell),


Cephalaspis was vulnerable to very few predators other than
eurypterid. Presumably a bottom-dweller, it fed by filtering
particles of food from mud sucked into its small, jawless mouth.
Between its 2 upward-looking eyes lay the pineal body, or third
eye, a photosensitive organ which distinguished light from shade.
Networks of nerves, preserved in a number of fossil specimens,
extended from its simple brain to sensory dorsal plates. Once
considered to be electrical organs, these sensitive plates probably
served to monitor such things as temperature and water pressure as
well as vibrations. They became extinct some 365 million years
ago. From the Royal Scottish Museum.

43. Phylum Echinodermata,


Class Crinoidea
Acanthocrinus rex
Early Devonian, Germany

Although having the appearance of plants, crinoids (Lily-Form)


are actually primitive sea creatures related to starfish and sea
urchins. Belonging to the echinoderm group, they first appeared
45. Superclass Gnathostomata,
Class Acanthodii
Cheiracanthus
Middle Devonian, Scotland

The earliest known jawed fishes, the acanthodians, with their


characteristically large eyes and streamlined bodies, ranged from
the Late Silurian to the Early Permian, inhabiting freshwater
lakes and streams throughout the world. Degeneration of gill
arches in these primitive fishes produced the first hinged jaws,
endowing them with a distinct advantage in hunting. Commonly
44. Superclass Agnatha known as spiny sharks, each of their fins bore a prominent spine
Class Pteraspidomorphi along its edge. Unrelated to sharks, they are the progenitors of the
Drepanaspis gemuendensis bony fishes, including both lobe-fins and ray fins. Private
Early Devonian, Germany collection.

Specially adapted to a bottom-dwelling existence, this flattened,


jawless fish possessed a primitive, bony shield over its head and
the front of its body. First appearing in the freshwater rivers of
Europe and North America, the pteraspids gradually spread to the
oceans. Feeding on tiny organisms scooped out of the muddy river
bottoms with a series of small plates along its jawless mouth,
Drepanaspis lacked fins but was equipped with a third eye.
From the Humboldt Museum.
48. Class Trilobita, Order Phacopida
Phacops africanus
46. Phylum Mollusca Devonian, Morocco
Class Cephalopoda
Agoniatites vanuxemi Although trilobites began to decline after the close of the Cambrian,
Middle Devonian, New York probably as a result of increased predation from the rapidly
growing numbers of fishes and other marine life, they enjoyed a
Named for the rams horns of the Egyptian god Ammon, the temporary resurgence of diversity in the Devonian, giving rise to
ammonoids (a subclass of the cephalopod group) were tentacled the largest and most grotesque forms known. In dwindling
marine creatures related to the squid. Possessing a chambered, numbers, these once common creatures survived into the Permian
spirally coiled shell which both housed the creature and provided before vanishing from the fossil record. This giant phacopid
buoyancy, as well as an ink sac for blinding its enemies during trilobite, with its excellently preserved compound eyes, each
escape, Agoniatites resembled the modern Nautilus. The composed of over 100 individual lenses, is characterized by its
ammonoids appeared in the Devonian and survived until the end of large eyes, a granularly decorated glabella (face), and the ability to
the Cretaceous, though the goniatites (which typified the early enroll. Private collection.
forms) were extinct by the end of the Permian. Capable of
swimming very rapidly, this marine invertebrate propelled itself by
ejecting water. The fossilized shells of these large early mollusks
are commonly found worldwide. Private collection.
49. Class Placodermi,
Order Antiarchi
Bothriolepis canadensis
Late Devonian, Canada

Derived from the earlier Agnatha, the Devonian placoderms were


among the first ancestral fishes to develop jawbones and paired
fins. Growing to about 1 foot in length, these primitive vertebrates
were equipped with a bony armored carapace which covered the
front part of the body, the exposed trunk and tail presumably
covered with scales. Also found in Antarctica, the widespread
Bothriolepis (Trench Scale) reached North America near the end
of the Devonian, inhabiting freshwater lakes and streams.

The development of jaws in these fishes, though rudimentary,


increased their capacity for hunting and feeding. Their paired and
spiny pectoral appendages may have served as anchors against
currents as they gleaned for food on the muddy river bottoms. The
2 pockets stemming from the throat may have served as lungs,
temporarily allowing Bothriolepis to breathe air when stranded on
shoals by the tide. This exquisitely preserved school of placoderms
represents some of the earliest of true fishes. American Museum
of Natural History.
50. Class Placodermi, bone which enabled it to slash and crush the armor of its prey. Also
Order Arthrodira known as Dinichthyes, this monstrous fish hunted everything from
Dunkleosteus terrelli sharks and other placoderms to large invertebrates throughout the
Devonian, Ohio Devonian oceans of North America and Europe. Their extinction
coincides with evidence of widespread tidal waves which appear to
The earliest known giant vertebrate, Dunkleosteus (Dunkles have devastated the majority of marine life along the seashores at
Bones) grew to lengths of over 16 feet and weighed up to 5 tons. the end of the Devonian period about 365 million years ago.
Like all placoderms, its massive head was protected by an armor of Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
bony plates while its scaly trunk was exposed. Possessing no teeth,
its powerful jaws were equipped with razor-sharp blades of
51. Order Crossopterygii, A formidable predator resembling the modern pike and perfectly
Suborder Rhipidistia preserved with its fins and scales intact, this elongated freshwater
Eusthenopteron foordi fish was highly adapted to the severe climatic fluctuations (often
Late Devonian, Canada daily) of the Devonian. With tear ducts to keep its eyes moist and
lungs derived from a simple air bladder originally employed to
As the Late Devonian freshwater streams and ponds shrank or keep the bodies of fishes right side up, Eusthenopteron (Good
dried up during periods of drought, the primordial, lobe-finned Strong Fin) was able to breathe out of water during times of
lungfishes of the period developed rudimentary adaptations to the drought and stagnation while other fish suffered asphyxiation.
hostile environment of land before spreading into the seas. Special Some of the descendants of this ruggedly adaptive crossopterygian
bone features that enabled them to crawl on their fins evolved not fish gave rise to tetrapod amphibians, the others, to saltwater
for the purpose of escaping the aquatic environment, but as a coelacanths. The apparent progenitor of all terrestrial vertebrates, it
means of reaching fresher water when shrinking pools became was extinct by the dawn of the Permian. Royal Ontario Museum.
crowded and putrid or the streams became too muddy.
52. Class Amphibia,
Subclass Labyrinthodontia
Ichthyostega
Late Devonian, Greenland

The origin of terrestrial vertebrate life appears to have begun in


Greenland with the appearance of the first tetrapod amphibians.
Among the earliest of these creatures, Ichthyostega (Fish Plate)
inhabited freshwater lakes and streams during the Late Devonian
and Early Carboniferous. Derived from crossopterygian fishes, this
air-breathing predator still retained many of the primitive fishlike
structures of its ancestors. Although it possessed scales and a long
tail fin, it also had a sturdy backbone and 4 short limbs, each
equipped with 7 digits, enabling it to waddle about on dry land for
limited periods of time before having to return to water.

Unlike the amphibians that were to follow, Ichthyostega lacked


notches for ears, an indication that it had no auditory sense. Its
direct relation to crossopterygian fishes is evidenced by their
virtually Identical tooth patterns, a distinctive characteristic which
Ichthyostega passed on to the varied generations of labyrinthodont
amphibians which it produced. In fact, this important creature is
believed to have given rise to all of the diverse and prolific groups
of reptiles, birds, and mammals which followed. Although well-
documented in the fossil record, Ichthyostega is known only from
incomplete remains. Skull reconstruction courtesy of the Swedish
Museum of Natural History.
THE LATE PALEOZOIC ERA
from 345 to 250 million
years ago
Inundated by the inland invasion of the seas throughout the
Mississippian (345 million years ago), the first division of the
Carboniferous period, immense tropical forest regions were fossilized
into deep carbon bands in the Earths crust. During the Pennsylvanian
(310 million years ago), the remaining division of the period, reptiles
diverged from their amphibious ancestors and began to proliferate on
the land.

By the Permian (280 million years ago), named for the discovery 53. Paleozoic Sea Floor
of fossils near the region of Perm in western Siberia, mammal-like Crinoids
reptiles (synapsids) had appeared, characterized by developments that Brachiopods
would ultimately distinguish them from their reptile ancestors and lead Coral
to a new class of animals. Trilobite
Mississippian, Indiana
All of the continental land masses of the Cambrian collided during the
Permian, forming the supercontinent of Pangaea. A series of Dominated by a fossilized crinoid and flecked with tiny
devastating ice ages were triggered by the encroachment of the brachiopod shells, coral, and even a half-buried trilobite, this
supercontinent on both poles. The resulting widespread extinction that exquisite slab has preserved a cross-section of a once thriving
ended the Permian period and the Paleozoic Era was of such massive marine ecosystem.
proportions that it has never been equaled, over 90 percent of all
species vanishing. The decimation of the once dominant multitudes of Trace fossils preserving the activities of trilobites are not
mammal-like reptiles provided an ecological niche that favored the uncommon. Digging furrows into the sand with their jointed limbs
surviving reptile groups. (or endopodites), many left tiny trails that dried and hardened
before they could be washed away. Fossilized burrows indicate
that trilobites apparently laid their eggs in pits carefully dug ill the
sea floor, afterwards leaving them to be covered by drifting sand to
protect them from predators. Private collection.
The Early Paleozoic crinoid gardens were sparse compared to the vast
varieties of the Mississippian period, known as the Age of Crinoids.
Most of the crinoids died out at the close of the Paleozoic, however a
few species still survive today. Preserved in beautiful detail, these 6
crinoid species were rendered in bouquet. Private collection.

55. Phylum Cnidaria,


Class Scyphozoa
Essexella asherae
Pennsylvanian, Illinois

Swimming by rhythmic contractions of their gelatinous bodies, these


medusoid jellyfish preyed on small creatures that became entangled in
their poisonous, dangling tentacles. Lacking a central nervous system,
these simple marine organisms are actually colonial animals composed
of hundreds of specialized individual creatures, each fulfilling a
separate function such as flotation, stinging, feeding, or digestion.
From the famous Mazon Creek deposits. Private collection.

54. Phylum Echinodermata,


Class Crinoidea
Ulrichicrinus coryphaeus
Actinocrinites gibsoni
Dorycrinus gouldi
Taxodrinus colletti
Sarocrinus nitidus
Agaricocrinites americanus
Late Mississippian, Indiana
early plants did not decay but instead turned to peat which in time
became coal. Private collection.

56. Kingdom Plantae,


Class Lyginopteriodopsida
Neuropteris rodgersi
Pennsylvanian, Pennsylvania

Presumably evolved from Precambrian one-celled algae, primitive 57. Phylum Tracheophyta,
plants existed long before the appearance of the first animals. Class Sphenopsida
Neuropteris, an ancient seed fern of the coal forests of 300 million Annularia stellata
years ago (derived from early terrestrial plants of the primordial Pennsylvanian, Kansas
Silurian Period) was able to circulate water and nutrients to the
cells of its highest leaves by means of its advanced root and Appearing in the Devonian, the horsetails (or scouring rushes) were
vascular systems. Unlike the more primitive true ferns which typical in the primordial swamps. Apparently derived from early ferns,
reproduce from spores, these large, non-flowering, tree-like plants ancient forms known as calamites once grew as large as trees, forming
were crowned with seed-bearing fronds. vast jungles along the rivers and lakes of the Coal Age. Characterized
Supported by rigid trunks that often reached heights of as much as by the whorls of leaves growing from the joints of their branches,
10 feet, this common seed fern proliferated in the dense swamps these plants have survived to the present, occurring in both humid and
and forests of the Late Paleozoic during a time when coastal areas arid environments. This beautifully preserved Annularia impression is
were often inundated by the intermittent rising of the seas. Deeply among the most common of the Pennsylvanian calamites. Private
buried under accumulated organic debris, the remains of these collection.
59. Phylum Tracheophyta,
58. Phylum Tracheophyta, Class Lycopsida
Family Calamitaceae Lepidodendron aculeatum
Calamites Pennsylvanian, Utah
Pennsylvanian, Michigan
Appearing in the Early Devonian, this lycopod was among the tallest
Armed with tissue laced with an abrasive silica grit to discourage and most abundant of trees in the humid Carboniferous swamps of
grazing, and growing to heights of as much as 40 feet, this tree was Europe and the Americas. Lepidodendrons (Scale Tree) ordinarily
widespread throughout the marshy jungles of Europe, Asia, and grew to heights of 100 to 150 feet. First described on the basis of
North America during the Pennsylvanian and Early Permian. First fossilized bark bearing the scale-shaped scars of fallen leaves, the
described as fossilized pith unassociated with any foliage, roots and foliage of these primordial trees were described as separate
Calamites are now recognized as the fossilized trunks of giant genera. Brigham Young University.
rushes whose leaves were separately described as Annularia. From
Brigham Young University.
61. Class Lycopsida,
Order Lepidodendroles
Lepidophyllum
Pennsylvanian, Utah
This genus was established to describe the fossilized foliage of
Lepidodendrons not found in association with the rest of the plant.
Starting at a height of 115 feet and extending upwards for another
20 feet, Lepidodendron had dagger-like leaves which grew close to
the thick bark, leaving ranks of diamond-shaped scars when they
fell off the tree. Reproducing by means of spore-bearing cones
which grew on the tips of their branches, these early plants gave
rise to some 110 known species before becoming extinct during the
Permian, survived only by the club mosses. From Brigham Young
University.

60. Class Lycopsida, Order Lepidodendroles


Stigmaria
Pennsylvanian, Michigan
Prior to their recognition as the root systems of Lepidodendrons, these
isolated fossils were separately described as Stigmaria. Growing
horizontally and extending as much as 40 feet around the base of the
plant, these underground stems, or rhizomes, bear pitted scars marking
the points at which the roots emerged. From Brigham Young
University.
predominantly on the land. Giving rise to the massively-skulled
Eryops of the Permian and the flattened stereospondyls of the
Triassic, these tiny predators of the coal swamps were not on the
evolutionary path to reptiles, birds, and mammals. Private
collection.

65. Class Reptilia,


Order Cotylosauria
Cephalerpeton ventriarmatum
Pennsylvanian, Illinois

One of the very oldest vertebrates to be recognized as a reptile,


Cephalerpeton belonged to the most primitive group, the anapsids,
63. Subclass Labyrinthodontia, which began with the suborder Captorhinomorpha. Descended
Family Dissorophidae from labyrinthodont amphibians, the early stem reptiles, or
Eoscophus lockardi cotylosaurs, were the ancestral stock of all Reptilia, distinguished
Pennsylvanian, Kansas by their revolutionary ability to deposit their eggs on dry land,
bypassing the gilled larval stage of their immediate ancestors. As
Among the earliest of terrestrial amphibians, this skeleton of a the first vertebrates to become entirely independent of water, their
primitive labyrinthodont was well-adapted to life outside the ability to exploit the terrestrial habitat led to a rapid radiation of
aquatic environment and bore no trace of the archaic tail fin of its diversely specialized reptile groups which included the ancestors
Devonian ancestors once it reached adulthood. Laying their eggs in of birds and mammals. From the Mazon Creek deposits. Yale
water, they hatched into gilled larval forms which remained in the Peabody Museum.
water until reaching maturity, when they began a life of dwelling
and the closest link to their amphibian ancestry. Because related
forms document the passage of a gilled larval stage, a

characteristic thoroughly eliminating them from the reptilian class,


Seymouria is now placed among the anthracosaurs (Coal
Reptiles) by most authorities, thus including this distinctly
terrestrial amphibian in the group of Permian labyrinthodont.
Although Seymouria (named for the town of Seymour, Texas
where it was discovered) differed very little from the
Pennsylvanian ancestors of the reptiles, it left no known
descendants. This exquisite skeleton is from the U.S. National
Museum.

66. Class Reptilia,


Order Cotylosauria
Eocaptorhinus laticeps
Early Permian, Oklahoma

Among the earliest and most primitive reptiles, these ancient,


superficially lizard-like creatures possessed no temporal openings in
their skulls. Their simple eardrums were located much closer to the
jaw articulation than the archaic notches of their amphibian forebears.
Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

67. Subclass Labyrinthodontia,


Order Anthracosauria
Seymouria baylorensis
Early Permian, Texas

With a sturdy, terrestrial-type skeleton characteristic of reptiles and


a skull exhibiting prominent ear notches characteristic of
amphibians, Seymouria was long regarded as a primitive reptile
68. Class Amphibia,
Subclass Labyrinthodontia
Eryops megacephalus
Early Permian, Texas

Throughout the Carboniferous and Early Permian periods, the


evolving groups of primitive amphibians, collectively known as
labyrinthodont (due to the labyrinthine wrinkles in their tooth enamel,
derived from their crossopterygian antecedents) are exemplified by
Eryops (Drawn Out Face) which inhabited the lush deltas along
the edge of the ancient sea of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico
260 million years ago. Eryops was largely an aquatic creature like
the modern alligator. Unlike the early fish, these amphibians were
able to listen for their prey due to their well-developed eardrums,
evolved from degenerate skull bones inherited from their fish
ancestors.

A true amphibian, Eryops laid its eggs in water, its young passing
through a larval stage, with gills for breathing, before reaching
maturity. Armed against predators with bony nodules in its skin and
growing to about 6 feet in length, this extremely common swamp
creature presumably preyed on fish and other amphibians. Hunted, in
turn, by the fierce Dimetrodon, Eryops was extinct by the close of
the Permian, although its survivors gave rise to the peculiar
stereospondyl amphibians of the Triassic. Collected by Kenneth W.
Craddock. Private collection.
69. Class Amphibia,
Subclass Lepospondyli
Diplocaulus magnicornis
Early Permian, Texas

Among the most bizarre of the Permian lepospondyl amphibians is


Diplocaulus (Two- Tail), a flattened, bottom-dwelling predator of
the Late Pennsylvanian to Early Permian streams and ponds.
Ranging from 1 to 3 feet in length and lying in wait on the murky
bottom, Diplocaulus fed by ambushing prey, its upward-looking
eyes positioned on top of its grotesquely boomerang-shaped head.

With tiny legs for its overall length and a body too flattened to bear
the musculature necessary for swift locomotion, Diplocaulus was
probably not a very strong swimmer despite speculations regarding
the hydrodynamic properties of its oversized head. Unable to see
each other except by touch due to the placement of their eyes, the
widely extended corners of these creatures skulls may have
provided advantages in intimidating displays of head-butting during
mating competition, gradually producing a genetic favoring of those
with the greatest range. Private collection.
70. Subclass Synapsida,
Order Pelycosauria
Dimetrodon limbatus
Early Permian, Texas

The aggressive, carnivorous Dimetrodon (Dual Sized Tooth),


distinguished by a prominent dorsal fin along its back, prowled the
upland regions of the swampy deltas of northern Texas along the
edge of a shallow, drifting sea. The dominant predator of this area,
Dimetrodon fed without competition on an abundant population of
large, defenseless amphibians. Belonging to the archaic order of
finback pelycosaurs, these early cold-blooded synapsids were
ancestral to the mammal-like reptiles of later Permian times.
Equipped with a ferocious arcade of palatine teeth (in addition to the
sharp teeth that lined their jaws). Incapable of sustaining an extended
chase, they probably hid in the lush vegetation, waiting for
unsuspecting prey to stray too close to escape a quick, surprise attack.

The creatures impressive dorsal sail provided a large surface area


for warming the blood when exposed to sunlight and cooling it when
in the shade, although such spectacular features may evolve more
rapidly for the purpose of mating displays than for thermal functions.
By the Middle Permian, when the climate along the delta became too
dry to sustain them anymore, the Dimetrodons disappeared quite
suddenly from the fossil record. Brigham Young University.
Permian pelycosaurs and the later Permian freshwater mesosaurs,
the possible forerunners of the air-breathing, marine ichthyosaurs.
Collected by Charles Camp and Samuel Welles in 1928 and
identified by Wann Langston and Robert Reisz in 1981, this cluster
of Early Permian specimens also contains the dissociated bones of
various other reptiles and amphibians including an Eryops and an
Edaphosaurus. University of California at Berkeley.

71. Class Reptilia,


Subclass Synapsida
Aerosaurus wellesi
Early Permian, New Mexico

The most primitive of the early synapsid reptile groups, the 72. Class Reptilia,
pelycosaurs may have led a somewhat amphibious existence, similar Subclass Anapsida
to that of alligators. Catching and killing its prey in jaws lined with Mesosaurus brasiliensis
an extraordinary number of sharp teeth, Aerosaurus (Air Lizard) Early Permian, Brazil
was apparently an aggressive predator. Equipped with an unusually
long and flat swimming tail, this young pelycosaur probably preyed A small freshwater reptile of the lakes and estuaries of Permian
on fish as well as on smaller, slower reptiles and amphibians. South Africa and South America (when the 2 continents were still
joined), the slender Mesosaurus (Middle Reptile) grew to a length
Although undoubtedly cold-blooded, because of their specialized of 3 feet and had jaws lined with needle-shaped teeth for catching
bone structure the archaic synapsid reptiles are considered to be the fish. The earliest known aquatically adapted animal descended from
ancestors of the therapsids, the later and more advanced reptile terrestrial ancestors, its broad limbs were adapted for swimming and
group that subsequently gave rise to warm-blooded mammals. appear to have been web-footed. University of California, Los
Some scientists have also noted affinities between the Early Angeles.
74. Class Reptilia,
Subclass Therapsida
Dicynodon grimbeeki
73. Class Reptilia, Subclass Anapsida Middle to Late Permian, South Africa
Mesosaurus africanus
For about 10 to 15 million years, great herds of these fat, little
Early Permian, South Africa
mammal-like therapsids inhabited South Africa, Russia, Scotland,
Although mesosaurs are believed by some to be a transitional stage Asia and the Americas, apparently reproducing at an extraordinarily
between the later ichthyosaurs and their early land-dwelling prolific rate. Found in the red beds of the South African Karroo
ancestors, due to their extremely primitive aquatic adaptation, there Formation, these 3 specimens are the remains of creatures that once
are no actual affinities between the two animal groups to support this flourished throughout a region that was considerably closer to the
supposition. Because the remains of this creature have been found South Pole during Permian times than it is now. In order to survive
only in Brazil and South Africa, Mesosaurus is one of the very the severe Karroo winters, they may have evolved some kind of
strong links in the chain of evidence for shifting continents. From the furry insulation. Although they were probably the first successful
famous Karroo Formation. Private collection. group of herbivores among the vertebrates, equipped with horny
beaks and tusk-like upper canines, by the end of the Permian Period
to the Middle Triassic, the herds of Dicynodons (Double Dog
Tooth) had dwindled to extinction, survived by a few relatives
which evolved into early mammals. From the famous Karroo
Formation. University of California, Berkeley.
75. Subclass Therapsida, was connected to Antarctica and located in a much colder region,
Infraorder Gorgonopsia subject to harsh winters. Because the gorgonopsids (named for the
Broomisaurus laticeps terrible gorgons of ancient Greek mythology) apparently thrived in
Middle to Late Permian, South Africa this climate, they are believed by many paleontologists to have been
warm-blooded.
The saber-toothed gorgonopsids were a formidable group of lion-
sized protomammals (mammal-like reptiles) which included Descended from the primitive synapsids that diverged from the
Broomisaurus (Brooms Reptile). With powerfully muscular reptile family during the Early Permian, these advanced therapsids,
bodies and an upright mammalian stance that differed radically from possibly the earliest vertebrates to show signs of rapid growth, were
the low sprawl typical of reptiles, they dominated the land ecosystem the dominant land animals of their time, prowling the forests and
of South Africa from the Middle to Late Permian Period (245 to 225 floodplains in bloody competition for territorial sovereignty.
million years ago). During this time the southern tip of the continent University of California, Berkeley.