Dicynodonts were a group of
that first appeared in
the Permian period about 268 million years ago, and survived through to
the Cretaceous period
about 105 million years ago. Until recently it was thought that
all Dicynodonts died out before the end of the
the Triassic period,
but recently discovered evidence suggested that they may have
survived in southern Gondwana (now Australia)
until the Cretaceous period.
During the late Permian period, Dicynodonts were the most successful of land vertebrates,
and occupied a range of evolutiontary niches. Many species died out in the Permian-Triassic
extinction, but two families survived, and they and their descendents (especially Lystrosaurs)
were the most successful herbivores of the early
Dicynodonts vary in size from being about the size
of a rat to about the size of a horse, and were all herbivores (plant-eaters).
Their bodies are usually short and strong with a short tail but powerful limbs - in larger
species the hind limbs are erect, but the front limbs sprawl at the elbow.
Additionally, in all but the earliest forms, Dicynodonts have a horny beak.
The name "Dicynodont" was coined by
Sir Richard Owen
in 1859 and means "two dog teeth". It refers to the two tusks that the animals
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