Genus: Dimetrodon (“Two Measures of Teeth”)
Species: D. angelensis, D. borealis, D. booneorum, D.dollovianus, D. gigahomogenes, D. grandis, D. kempae, D. limbatus, D. loomisi, D. macrospondylus, D. milleri, D. natalis, D. occidentalis, D. teuronis
There are many species of Dimetrodon, ranging widely in size, meaning they may have occupied different ecological niches and had different behaviors. The larger Dimetrodon species were some of the largest predatory animals of their time.
As prey animals grew larger, so did Dimetrodon’s adaptations to hunting and subduing its prey. Dimetrodon had teeth of different sizes in its jaw (which lead to its name), and larger species had sharper and more serrated teeth, which were more adapted to cutting through the meat of the animals it preyed upon.
Dimetrodon was a synapsid, often called “mammal-like reptiles”, though this is not exactly accurate, as they are not reptiles in the way we traditionally think of them, though they may have resembled reptiles. They are more accurately referred to as “stem mammals”, as they would eventually evolve into the mammals we know today.
Dimetrodon was a four-legged animal that was notable for the large sail along its back. This sail was composed of long spines sprouting from the vertebrae that were connected by a membrane. The function of this sail is atopic still debated by scientists. It was initially believed that it helped to regulate the animals temperature, allowing it to absorb heat through the large surface area of the sail. Another theory is that it may have been brightly colored to attract mates.
SIZE: 6-15 feet (1.7- 4.6 meters)
WEIGHT: 60-550 pounds (28-250 kg)
Dimetrodon lived from 295 million to around 270 million years ago, during the Permian Period. This was the geological age just before the Triassic Period, where the first dinosaurs would appear. During this time, Europe and America were fused together as one “supercontinent”, and Dimetrodon remains have been found in a number of states in the U.S., as well as Germany. Its habitat was likely a wetland environment, which it shared with other synapsids, as well as reptiles and large amphibians.