STL Science Center

STL Science Center

14 May 2011

Eryops in pictures

Having your place in the ecosystem as the go between predator of the day put Eryops in an interesting position ecologically speaking. It was not an apex predator in either the water or terrestrially. However, it could have eaten fish, small insects, smaller amphibians, lizards, and proto-mammals with ease not to forget the young of synapsids that it came into contact with if it was so lucky. Its sharp teeth could have been used for any of those purposes and, given enough problem solving skill it may have even been able to crack open mollusks for all we know. Since, unlike the Edaphosaurus-Dimetrodon connection that is always made but is impossible due to their existing in separate periods, Eryops had to deal with Dimetrodon on land many images have been created and skeletons positioned that show the two animals near each other
 or facing off against one another.

Certainly, being a water predator as much as it was a terrestrial predator many of the scenes depicting both animals near one another were probably much more like the following image. Dimetrodon would certainly not have always troubled itself to go down to the water to feed considering the wealth of the land during this time. When it did go to the water to drink it probably wouldn't have bothered an amphibian sitting on the banks like this all that often either.
Eryops isn't depicted in the water often, and probably with good reason, as there must have been some fish large enough in the swamps it lived in to terrorize it in the same way that Dimetrodon was free to do so on land at the time. However, some depictions of Eryops on the shoreline and in the water hunting fish do indeed exist such as the two below.
©Karen Carr
 Being an amphibian Eryops must have had amphibious traits aside from hunting fish in the water and animals on the land, soft wet skin, and having water-borne soft eggs. One such trait may be presented in the fossil below which is thought to be a representation of Eryops as a tadpole, assuming that Eryops had a frog-like life cycle that saw Eryops go from having gills to having lungs amongst other things which would fit in perfectly as it is indeed an amphibian. Pelosaurus laticeps is what this fossil is named, but it would be interesting if it was just an immature Eryops megacephalus.

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