Diictodon was a genus of therapsid, roughly 45 cm
(18 inches) long. It belonged to the sub-group Dicynodontia.
These mammal-like synapsids lived during the Late
approximately 255 million years ago. Fossils have been found in Africa
and Asia (in fact, roughly half of all
Permian vertebrate specimens
found in South Africa are those of Diictodon). This small herbivorous
animal was one of the most successful synapsids in the
Diictodon feliceps relative to a human.
Diictodon had disproportionally large heads that ended in a horny
beak. Both males and females had a pair of tusks sticking out from the
upper jaw, with those of the male being slightly larger.
strong arms and legs, as well as 5 sharp claws on each hand, and may
have had keen senses of smell and sight. Their gait was similar to the
'high walk' of crocodiles. Their jaws were also simplified, with some
of the bones dedicated instead to hearing, considered a key sign of
Diictodon also had many adaptations for digging,
such as highly developed muscles, a cylindrical body, and wide hands.
Burrow and skeleton
As a therapsid,
Diictodon shared many features with modern-day
mammals. Most noticeably, they made burrows into the earth. These
burrows could be up to 1.5 m (5 feet) deep. Many scientists
Diictodon lived like the modern gopher. Their burrows
could have been used to escape the heat of the desert, which was the
dominant environment on the continent of
Pangaea in the Late Permian
Period. Inside these burrows, nests have been found, where Diictodon
skeletons are present. They constituted of quite a gregarious
lifestyle with numerous burrows in 500 square meters of space.
However, their burrows were unconnected and did not form any large
Diictodon nested close to flood plains, and some
specimens may have been killed as water flowed into the nests,
drowning the animals.
Diictodon had no known rival species competing
in its niche, so they may have competed primarily with others of their
species for the little plant material available.
Like all dicynodonts,
Diictodon were herbivorous. They used their
beaks to break off pieces of the sparse desert shrubs. Like modern
Diictodon may have had unusually efficient digestive
systems, due to the lack of nutrients present in desert plants. As
burrowing animals, they may have fed off of water-rich plant tubers
Model in life size
Diictodon was a dicynodont, and therefore only distantly related to
the cynodonts that eventually evolved into mammals. Some evolved into
larger species. These dicynodonts, such as
Lystrosaurus and Placerias
dominated the earlier part of the
Triassic period. However, they were
out-competed by prosauropod dinosaurs in the Norian.
Ray, Sanghamitra; Chinsamy, Anusuya (January 2003). "Functional
aspects of the postcranial anatomy of the
Permian dicynodont Diictodon
and their ecological implications". Palaeontology. The
Palaeontological Association. 46 (1): 151–183.
doi:10.1111/1475-4983.00292. Retrieved 15 September 2014.