Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When Pigs Ruled the Earth!

While this may not look like the pink lil' piggies we're used to, this dude is a prehistoric pig ancestor (called lystrosaurus) that at one point had the run of this place we call Earth. According to The Sun (UK), 260 million years ago all the top predators died out, giving this species free range on all the leafy goodness available. The blog, Everything Dinosaur, gives more details on these weird pre-piggies:

Lystrosaurs were dicynodonts, short-tailed synapsid reptiles whose decendents were eventually to give rise to the mammals. Typically, these type of animals had short skulls, with a deep, powerful jaw, high nostrils and broad but stumpy limbs. This particular group of animals seems to have recovered very quickly following the Permian extinction event and rapidly diversified to become the dominant large, terrestrial life form.

There is evidence to suggest that these animals were mainly herbivorous (although other species may have been ominvores). The presence of tusks in the strong jaws, coupled with the strong forelimbs indicate that these animals may have dug up roots and even excavated burrows and dens. Perhaps this subterranean existence helped these animals survive the Permian extinction event.

It has been speculated that Lystrosaurs were able to hibenate or enter into a period of dormancy (estivation). This behaviour would have helped these relatively large animals survive a severe dry season for example.
Lystrosaurs are estimated to have ruled the planet for upwards of one million years before climate change caused the dinosaurs to rise to the top of the food chain. Scientists think there were billions of these guys because of they find so many skeletons.
Crazy to think that now almost no one knows about them... and a good warning that climate change can easily knock out the dominant life forms on Earth (you know, like us). Yikes!

Related post:
Alien vs. Moray Eels
When Elephants Rule the Earth!
Biomimicry for Greener Buildings

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