The End-Permian mass extinction was the most devastating die-off of all time. Waves of extinction swept through the therapsids. The most highly adapted – the fittest – were the
first to die in this changing world. But, there were survivors.
Lystrosaurus ( 'shovel reptile' - 10cm skull ) could be the 'poster child' for impoverished ecosystems. From humble beginnings in the latest Permian, these homely animals would go on
to cover the planet. The remains of Lystrosaurus have been found in Africa, India, Australia, Antarctica, Russia, and Central Asia – in fact, all these widespread fossils
of Lystrasaurus species helped to confirm the earlier existence of Pangea for geologists.
Once thought to be semi-aquatic, it seems that the lystrosaurs' success was due to their being well-adapted to very dry habitats. That odd, turned-down face gave
a jaw movement that allowed it to tackle the driest, toughest of plant material. When the familiar Glossopteris flora became extinct at the end of the
Permian, the tubby lystrosaurs were perfectly positioned to move out of their fringe habitats and to take over the world !
Another survivor was the cynodont, Galesaurus ( 'cat reptile' - 40cm long). And lucky for us, too. Little Galesaurus, and the related Triassic cynodont, Thrinaxodon, are part
that line which led to all living mammals. Without them, we would not be here to read this !