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The Therapsids

Dinocephalian teeth
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Tapinocephalians — 'Just browsing, thanks'
Aside from helping to conserve body heat, those tubby dinocephalian torsos offered another possibility —  the space necessary to accomodate the huge gut needed to digest the tough foliage of the day.*  Tapinocephalians were the dedicated plant-eating dinocephalians.  Based on tapinocephalian physique, we can assume that most of these large animals browsed from the lower branches while smaller creatures cropped ground-level growth.

Some tapinocephalians were probably omnivores eating anything they could find like big Permian bears.   Plants would make up most of their diet with carrion providing extra protein.  Eating rotten meat may sound gross but, like eggs,  carrion is much easier to digest than is plant material — an important consideration for an animal like a tapinocephalian which can't really chew up its food.

Getting Down & Dirty: Jonkeria truculenta  —  top left
Jonkeria  (4.5m long, skull 65cm)  was probably not fast enough on its feet to chase down prey. A longer-legged relative, Titanosuchus, may have been able to put  those sizeable canines to better use than mudhole squabbling.
Styracocephalus platyrhynchus ruminates  —  top right
Styracocephalus ('spike head' — skull 45cm) was a good- sized plant-eater — 4.5m long and weighing 500kg.  Adult tapinocephalians likely spent a good deal of ti me dozing, turning a bellyfull of coarse seed fern fronds into energy.

*  Tapinocephalians probably arose in Gondwana where seed-ferns like Glossopteris dominated the mid-Permian flora. The fibrous fronds and waxy surfaces of these seed ferns would challenge any digestive system.  And, while dinocephalian teeth were ideal for nipping and slicing foliage, the tapinocephalians had no way to chew food. Shredded fronds were simply swallowed to be fermented in that huge belly.

Dinocephalian teeth
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Bone Heads
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