STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 May 2011

Edaphosaurus, Permian Cow

 What do you follow one of the most successful and vicious predators of the Early Permian with? Its prey! Think of it as a giant cow-like reptile with a large sail jutting out of its back. Edaphosaurus was the apex herbivore of its day. I know apex herbivore sounds funny- "All plants quivered when they saw the might and brute force of Edaphosaurus!"- but there really could not be a better word to convey how serious an eating machine this animal was.

It was built like an iguana, up to the sail anyway; stubby fat legs, wide body, thick tail. It was generally a slow animal also due to the size of its body. Then that sail! Just like its arch nemesis it possessed a threatening display billboard right on its back that probably also helped catch some sun (which is why they had that awesome tan year round). The most interesting thing about these two animals in respect to the sail is that they both came from different groups of animals. They probably had a common ancestor, but that was way back in the just coming to land days; a fish or very early amphibian that is to say. Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus actually exhibit a fantastic example of convergent evolution with their sails.

Edaphosaurus ought to make an interesting specimen, though of course, let's not forget that there are 5, and possibly a 6th, species that belong to the Edaphosaurus genus and we should certainly look at those as we move along.

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