KOMPAS.com – Dinosaurs have a reputation as the most terrifying prehistoric predators.
The discovery of a new skull reveals the existence of another terrifying giant predator that dominated 40 million years before the first dinosaurs walked the Earth.
This 265 million year old fossil of a giant predator discovered in Brazil reveals the largest meat eater of its time roaming the jungle looking for prey.
“This is an animal that definitely inspires fear,” said Stepahie Pierce, a paleontologist at Harvard University.
Giant predators before the dinosaurs
Quoted from Science Alert, Monday (18/9/2023) the predator, which was later named Pampaphoneus biccai, is included in the early therapsid clade Dinocephalia or a large group of generally large and frightening land animals that developed before the dinosaurs.
Not all dinocephalia are carnivorous, but Pampaphoneus is thought to be a carnivorous animal.
“The animal (giant predator) has large and sharp canine teeth that are adapted for catching prey. “The teeth and skull suggest that its bite was strong enough to chew through bone,” said Felipe Pinheiro, a paleontologist from the Federal University of Pampa (UNIPAMPA) in Brazil.
Pampaphoneus lived at the end of the Permian period, just before the mass extinction event that wiped out 86 percent of all animal species on Earth.
The fossils of this predator were found in middle Permian rocks, in an area where bones are rare but always hold a surprise.
Additionally the team said this well-preserved fossil reveals new, previously unknown characters of the species.
“Finding a new Pampaphoneus skull after so long is very important to increase our knowledge about this (giant predator) animal,” said first author Mateus A. Costa Santos, a paleontologist at UNIPAMPA.
Sighting of a giant Brazilian predator
Pampaphoneus has a stunning appearance. The animal is estimated to be 3 meters tall with a maximum weight of 400 kg.
Pampaphoneus’ prey were the small reptile Rastodon and the giant amphibian Konzhukovia. The large size of Pampaphoneus makes these two creatures look like snacks.
“Pampaphoneus played the same ecological role as modern big cats. “It was the largest land predator that we know of from the Permian period in South America,” explained Pinheiro.
It’s not just its size that makes Pampaphoneus stand out. Their skulls are also thick, like most dinocephalians. It’s no surprise that this animal got its apt name which translates to “terrible head”.
“This discovery is key to providing a glimpse into the community structure of terrestrial ecosystems before the largest mass extinction in history. The discovery also shows the global importance of Brazil’s fossil record,” added Pierce.
Research on the skull of a giant predator that lived before the dinosaur era has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
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