The Therapsids

Gorgon's Bite
Previous Page

The Nose Knows  —  Turbinals  and the  Gorgonopsid Sense of Smell

Like a lot of terrestrial animals, most therapsids probably found their way through their world with their noses.  Therapsid predators of the Permian lacked binocular vision and had relatively poor hearing.  However,  the internal structure of the gorgonopsid snout tells us that these hunters would have had an acute sense of smell.

The gorgonopsid's nasal cavities were divided into two chambers. The larger of the two was the olfactory chamber.  This chamber was lined with cartilaginous turbinals serving to intensify smells  (or, more accurately, those blade-like turbinals served to increase the surface area of the cavity's lining, the olfactory epithelium where the olfactory receptors are located).  Modern mammals also have turbinals, however, the diapsid reptiles do not.

It's far more likely that the hipposaurs attempting to encircle the gorgonopsids' kill (left) were attracted to the scene by smell than to the sights or sounds of the initial struggle.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: Arctognathus curvimola under pressure from Hipposaurus seelyi  —  above
Arctognathus ('bear jaws' - skull 15cm) were mid-sized gorgonopsids weighing 100kg. Their tormentors are the smaller Hipposaurus ('horse reptile' - 1.2m long) which belong to a contentious therapsid family – the ictidorhinids.

Ictidorhinids (the 'weasel noses') have been traditionally grouped with the gorgonopsids.  However, a somewhat controversial proposal places the ictidorhinids into a 'superfamily' with the superficially similar eotitanosuchids.

The centre of all this attention is the sorry remains of Bradysaurus ('slow reptile' - skull 50cm).  Less well-armoured than later pareiasaurs (eg: Pareiasuchus), thick-skinned Bradysaurus would still make a tough target for predators.

Gorgon's Bite
Previous Page

* * *

Next Page